Analysis

Thursday 31 July 2014

Andrew Kealy: When we sing at misfortune, the laugh's on us

Published 13/11/2012|05:00

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THE Ireland fans who travelled to Poland to watch their team in the European Championships sang a five-minute chorus of 'The Fields of Athenry' as the players were humiliated by a Spanish side that beat them 4-0. A generous interpretation could cast this reaction as defiance by the Ireland fans; a refusal to allow the excruciating evidence of their team's inferiority to impact on their good time.

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But this would be too generous. It was a public display of lack of character and symptomatic of a national trait that confuses a humorous or good-natured response to calamity with resistance.

Michel Houellebecq, in a letter to fellow author Bernard-Henri Levy, wrote: "What is humour, after all, but shame at having felt a genuine emotion? It is a sort of tour de force, a slave's elegant pirouette when faced with a situation that under normal circumstances would evoke despair or rage."

As the fourth goal went in, there would have been more dignity in despair. There would have been more dignity in rage.

Further evidence of this characteristic is the reaction to the on-going and seemingly unending financial disaster this country endures, which comes in the form of the bizarrely-conceived 'Anglo: The Musical'.

In a recent interview, the show's creator, Paul Howard, said: "If Jonathan Swift were alive, he would be writing about Anglo." So let us assume that Mr Howard is a qualified heir to Swift and that the forthcoming production of 'Anglo: The Musical' is a satirical masterwork. It is, nonetheless, a bewildering response to catastrophe.

It is comparable to the 1847 production of 'Potato Blight: A Farce' and the 1652 staging of 'Cromwell: A Comedy of Religious Genocide', both of which, of course, never took place. According to reports, the finale of the Anglo show is a song entitled 'We are where we are, and where we are is f***ed'.

A tidy enough, if crudely expressed, summary of the state of the nation. But this is meant as a joke. I don't get it. Darren Smith, another of the show's creators, said in an interview with the ' Financial Times': "Our job is to prick pomposity and you can't have more pomposity than those guys at Anglo, or any bigger pricks than us." So we're pricks. Tee hee, what a hoot!

As you watch on Skype your grandchildren growing up with Canadian accents, don't forget to laugh about it. As you ready your luggage for the emigrant's journey to Australia, don't forget to whistle a happy tune. As you face into a winter that will see yet another crippling Budget, more redundancies, further pay cuts, make sure you remember to whoop it up. Because we're pricks and we're f***ed.

Or not. You can keep your eloquent pirouette. I prefer a two-step of despair and rage, if only as a precursor to a more constructive reaction.

It's possible that I've misunderstood. In his musical, 'The Producers', Mel Brooks devised a plot where two Broadway producers realise they would be financially better off if they came up with a show that flops.

Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom produce 'Springtime For Hitler', a show so offensive they are convinced no one will pay to see it.

Of course, it's a hit. I'm not suggesting that the producers of Anglo are hoping for a flop. But perhaps this is a form of advanced satire. And the joke is on us, with the punchline being: ". . . and they paid to go see it"!

Irish Independent

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