Entertainment Theatre & Arts

Tuesday 17 September 2019

The Roaring Banshees, Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin: Outwitting the mob in 1920s Chicago

Until Saturday night

Katy Hayes

This is such a strong idea: seven Cumann na mBan renegades flee Ireland to Chicago after a botched assassination attempt on Éamon De Valera. They get involved with the Mob, supplying their own brand of poitín to thirsty prohibition-era Americans.

It becomes apparent that cutting out the middle-man and opening their own speakeasy with direct access to the public is a much more lucrative idea. The Mob and Al Capone prove easier to handle than the complex dynamic amongst the group. It turns out that the biggest threat to the women comes from within.

The script, the second part of an Irish history-based trilogy by Peter McGann and John Morton, takes a terrific Tarantino-esque turn. But a soliloquy at the end is misguided and the writing lacks discipline. A spirited group of performers tackle this anarchic material with great gusto.

There are fine performances from Laura Brady as the ex-nun Concepta, and Aoife Spratt as Flossie, the poitín maker. Director Sarah Baxter, for Kilkenny's Devious Theatre Company, pumps up the action and machine-guns the audience with energy. But theatrical chutzpah will only carry you so far; these unmanageable revolutionaries need a vehicle with more dramatic finesse.

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