Scotsman Assembly, Edinburgh
August, 2002

*** Energetic but patchy gangland update of Irish legend

Irish touring company The Passion Machine are known for exuberance and vigour, but that can only carry you across so many ditches.

Dispiriting sight: the Assembly Rooms' big Music Hall space, capacity 630, with an audience numbering only the 30. This is where The Passion Machine scored a big success with Studs (a kind of footballing version of The Commitments), but that was ten years ago and their current show travels less well. We can only really appreciate this update of one of the Irish legends surrounding Fionn Mac Cumhaill if we know the original, and have a sense of how adaptor/director Paul Mercier is reshaping it by sending young, half-mad Gráinne on the run with her betrothed Fionn's lieutenant Diarmuid, provoking various factional strifes within the Irish criminal underworld.

Mercier seems to have updated the story only patchily: he can put the characters in leather and give them automatic pistols, but he's left with various references to magic, animal transformations and the like. Emily Nagle, too, has a singing voice that doesn't match Gráinne's reputation as a young pop idol. Perhaps the energy of the production would overcome these failings, but the company need an audience to bounce off, and without one they sadly flounder.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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