The joke’s on us in a new play about the collapse of Anglo-Irish, the bank which effectively bankrupted Ireland.
“Anglo: The Musical” begins a three-week run in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre tonight after starting life in the city’s Bord Gais Theatre in November.
Paul Howard, the show’s writer, leaves no opportunity pass without reminding the audience that they, Irish taxpayers, are left picking up the 64 billion euro ($83.4 billion) tab of bailing out the banks.
The plot is set around Diarmuid and Aisling, a simple-living couple living on the sparsely-populated fictional island of Inis Dull, off the west coast of Ireland. It’s a microcosm of the country before the Celtic Tiger boom created a mass of latte-drinking, property junkies getting rich selling houses to each other.
The couple’s world is upended as Diarmuid’s cousin, Jimmy, is dispatched by Anglo Irish -- captured in one of the songs as “the bank that won’t say no” -- to spread credit and good times to the island folk.
“The people of Inis Dull are greatly under-borrowed,” Rich, the notional head of Anglo Irish, tells Jimmy in a pep talk. They are “the most debt-poor people in Europe.”
Soon, the tiny speck of land resembles a metropolis, complete with skyscrapers, light rail system, and a Michelin-standard restaurant, as Anglo pumps cheap German money into the island.
Diarmuid, tired of his lot as a maker of bodhrans, an Irish drum-like instrument, is also sucked in with an eye-watering 890 million-euro loan from Anglo to build a 40-story apartment and shopping mall complex.
He dumps his nagging “post office saver-type” girlfriend and takes a voluptuous estate agent, Collagen, as his lover.
Collagen is played by a life-sized puppet and features in possibly the best moment of the evening. Diarmuid’s thrusts of passion are punctuated by a recital of property-boom buzzwords: “oil-fire central heating,” “built-in vacuum plugs,” and “convenient to the M50,” referring to a highway circling Dublin, and code word for nowhere near the city.
They have barely sold 10 apartments off the plans before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Ireland’s real-estate market implode, forcing the government into propping up its banks. Diarmuid is left broke.
The tunes include “Put a Zero on the End, He’s a Friend,” a nod to Anglo Irish’s infamous banking style.
At one point, a puppet representing German Chancellor Angela Merkel marches on stage, pulling Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at the end of a lead. When asked who’ll pay for the mess, she points to the audience and says: “Why, zeeze nice people, of course.”
Masochists in the theater may laugh guiltily, though some of the humor is heavy-handed and cliched. The accented German berating others for their foolishness has been done to death over the past three years.
Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars, Rich Jaroslovsky on tech, Lance Esplund on art and Catherine Hickley on film.