Sunday, February 4, 2024

Alone It Stands


Alone It Stands by John Breen.  Ensemble Theatre, Sydney, January 25 – March 2, 2024.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
February 3

Playwright: John Breen
Director: Janine Watson
Cultural Consultant: Tiana Tiakiwai
Set And Costume Designer: Emma White
Lighting Designer: Matt Cox; Composer And Sound Designer: Jessica Dunn
Dialect Coach: Linda Nicholls-Gidley; Fight Director: Tim Dashwood
Intimacy Coordinator: Chloë Dallimore; Stage Manager: Lauren Tulloh
Costume Supervisor: Renata Beslik; Art Finishing: Sasha Wisniowski

Tristan Black: Tony Ward, Munster player; Russ Thomas, All Black Manager;
John Ashworth, All Black player; David, posh Cork supporter; Monica, child;
Jasper, child; Bunratty singer; Brendan Foley, Munster player,
Wayne Graham, All Black player; Dan’s Friend 1; Mark Donaldson, All Black player.

Ray Chong Nee: Spider, child; Fox O’Halloran, President of Shannon Rugby Club; Tom Kiernan, Munster coach; Andy Haden, All Black player; Graham Mourie, All Black player; Relative at funeral; “Locky”, Gerry McLoughlin, Munster player; Dan’s Friend 2; Spectator.

Briallen Clarke:  Mary, Gerry’s wife; Dandy, child; Moss Keane, Munster player; Marjorie, posh Cork supporter; Bunratty singer; Gary Knight, All Black player; Top of big NZ fan; Ball; Brian McKechnie, All Black player.

Skyler Ellis:  Lanky, Munster fan; Donal Canniffe, Munster player; BBC commentator; Rodney, posh Cork supporter; Brad Johnstone, All Black player; Bunratty singer; Bryan Williams, All Black player; Nurse 1; Eddie Dunn, All Black player.

Alex King: Stu Wilson, All Black player; Ferret, child; Sinbad, dog; Bunratty singer; Pat Whelan, Munster player; Jim Bowen, Munster player; All Black fan 1; Taxi Driver; Nurse 2; Bottom of tall NZ fan; Colm Tucker, Munster player; Greg Barrett, Munster player; All Black forward.

Anthony Taufa: Gerry, Munster fan; Seamus Dennison, Munster player; Dan Canniffe, Donal Canniffe’s father; BJ Robertson, All Black player; Bridie Walsh, barmaid; Irene, posh Cork supporter; Bunratty singer; Priest.

Maybe Alone It Stands is not a Great Play, but it’s a very funny celebration human togetherness.  It must also stand alone for the most number of characters per actor.  This makes it a very cleverly written play, and demands absolutely tight timing when each ‘scene’is here and gone again within a couple of minutes.

All praise therefore to all the cast, individually and as a team.  No-one missed a beat, even when someone briefly patted a knee of a mature woman in Row A.  Row A’s were warned as they took their seats to ‘watch your feet’.  It’s such togetherness that keeps the small in-the-round Ensemble cosy.  Some call it ‘intimate theatre’.

Funny as it is to see the amateur Irish Munsters play Rugby (Union, of course) against the best team in the world Maori New Zealand All Blacks – and win! – yet there’s a touch of serious thought being thrown around.  There’s a little symbolism going on.  

On the political level, why historically have the Irish not won great wars against (or even with) Great Powers?  Or does this mean this is how they have won their freedom?  

On the family level, does Gerry do the right thing by Mary?  “It’s only a couple of hours,” he says, deciding not to miss the All Blacks game.  After a wild Irish taxi drive to the hospital, “Did I miss it?”.  “Them” says Mary.  “Two boys.”  

Is it enough, at the post-game celebration with the biggest bonfire ever, for everyone to toast Mary and her twins – while Gerry will bring them up to play the All Blacks and win in their own good time?  Is singing Erin Go Bragh (Ireland Forever) good enough?

You won’t miss the laughs, even if like me you only ever played soccer, or even that Aussie game Rugby League.  But keep a look out not to miss Mary at the end.  She’ll be right, though – won’t she?

And don’t miss the performance of Alone It Stands.  It’s a terrific example of the work of the Dialect Coach Linda Nicholls-Gidley, Fight Director Tim Dashwood and Intimacy Coordinator Chloë Dallimore.  Maori’s with Irish accents are one thing, but rugby player, dog and taxi driver Alex King, and even Briallen Clarke as the oval ball itself is something special to see.

Another Ensemble success.

Alone It Stands by John Breen
Ensemble Theatre, Sydney 2024