ALONE IT STANDS
The Wellington Irish Society, 17 Fifeshire St, Wellington
19/08/2015 - 05/09/2015
Historic All Blacks Munster match retold
The Wellington Irish Society celebrates rugby with a second Irish production – the internationally renowned Alone It Stands returns to Wellington for a limited run from 19 August to 5 September 2015.
In anticipation of the All Blacks attempt to defend the Webb Ellis Trophy, the Wellington Irish Society proudly presents this comedy by John Breen that tells the now legendary story of the 1978 rugby match at Thomond Park, Ireland between Irish provincial side Munster and the mighty All Blacks.
Munster’s 12-0 victory in this match remains the only time any Irish team, national or otherwise, have ever beaten the All Blacks.
“…the cleverest, funniest, most brilliantly crafted play you are ever likely to see…” – Irish Times
In this comedic and highly entertaining portrayal of the match, six actors portray both teams, children, fans, relatives, a dog and even a rugby ball – all with no props and only a half time change of shirt!
After the success of Playboy of the Western World last year, the Wellington Irish Society is pleased to deliver another Irish theatre classic – where the audience are invited to a vibrant ‘pub theatre’ experience, culture and legendary craic!
As the iconic Wellington Irish Society is transformed into a rugby pitch – wear your rugby colours and cheer along with this vibrant celebration of rugby culture.
“…This show supplies a winning formula of comedy and pathos…. the whole evening is a gloriously live experience “– The Guardian
Alone It Stands
7.30pm, 19 August – 5 September
NO SHOWS Sun/Mon/Tues
Wellington Irish Society, 10 Fifeshire Ave, Wellington (off Cambridge Terrace)
BOOKINGS: 0800 BUY TIX (289 849) or Eventfinda
TICKETS: $20 / 10
Committed ensemble tells a salutary tale
Review by John Smythe 20th Aug 2015
This is the ideal cautionary tale to revive on the eve of the Rugby World Cup (which kicks off in less than a month). An ensemble of six actors play 62 roles to evoke the legendary tale of how, in Limerick on Tuesday 31 October 1978, the provincial Munster ruby team beat the All Blacks, 12-0.
John Breen’s Alone it Stands has been around since late last century. It had enjoyed successful seasons throughout Britain and Australia before a New Zealand company – the Court in Christchurch – finally produced it in 2005. A commercial Australian production did leap the ditch in 2002 to play a three-week season at Auckland’s Sky City Theatre, en route from a sell-out season at the Sydney Opera House drama theatre to the larger Theatre Royal in Sydney.
Can this really be the first time it has been done in Wellington? Australians and Brits may well identify strongly with the Irish David’s miraculous conquest of the Kiwi Goliath but surely it behoves us in New Zealand to remind ourselves we are not invincible. With a Kiwi cast it stands as a good-humoured act of mature self-reflection and a cautionary tale about the dangers of complacency. Besides, a Kiwi cast should do the play most justice, given New Zealand (and Australian) actors have had plenty of opportunity to perfect their Irish accents and characterisations, but Irish (and Australian) actors have rarely had to play New Zealanders.
Sure it’s a challenge, theatrically. Uniformly clad in All Black jumpers in the first half and Munster red in the second, the actors must use their character acting and physical skills to switch instantly from AB players to Munster players, the coach of each, a radio commentator, Limerick identities across the classes including the soon-to-give-birth wife of a dedicated Munster supporter, the ailing dad of a Munster player, a bunch of kids building a bonfire, a dog and even the high-flying rugby ball itself. (My NBR review of the Court production mentions a subterranean colony of earthworms but I can’t say I clocked them here.)
Played in the traverse with available lighting in the Wellington Irish Society’s upstairs lounge bar, this co-op production, directed by Ania Upstill (designated ‘coach’ in the programme), moves from rolling maul to set piece to flashes of insight and humour at a steady pace and with workmanlike efficiency.
The actors – Brian Hotter, Alida Steemson, Scott Ransom, Amy Whiterod, Hamish Boyle and Paddy McShane – commit well to their multiple roles, giving a good account of the lead up to the match, the game itself and the aftermath. Stage manager Shaneel Sidal does well on the ref’s whistle and the half-time oranges are an excellent touch.
Seamless transitions between locations and plot lines allow the parallel stories of the two teams, two families, two groups of fans, and a bunch of kids intent on their traditional Halloween bonfire, to converge and entwine. It’s an impressive feat to get it on its feet and running like clockwork. All credit for that.
But something’s missing. It could and should be more engaging, more touching and therefore funnier. A better-equipped theatre space with good acoustics and lighting facilities could help draw us in beyond objective appreciation to gut-level empathy. Maybe it’s simply under-rehearsed and will improve with greater fluency. But I’m inclined to feel it is the capacity to capture snapshot idiosyncrasies of character, profound insights into human fallibility and vulnerability, and intuit the most effective comic timing that is in short supply.
If the moments of truth to be most valued have been discovered in rehearsal, there’s a good chance the production will quickly hit its stride in performance and realise the play’s undoubted potential. Meanwhile, on opening night we witness an impressive display of committed ensemble performance that tells a salutary tale.
Munster first played the All Blacks in 1905, losing 33–0 on the occasion. They have played each other many times since then. Munster drew with New Zealand 3–3 in 1973 and, in 1978, became the only Irish side to have beaten the All Blacks. The 12–0 victory occurred on Tuesday 31 October 1978 at Thomond Park, in front of a crowd of 12,000, though many times that number still claim to have been present, such was the occasion. Christy Cantillon scored a try with Tony Ward converting. Ward also added a drop-goal in each half. The game remains the only time an All Blacks team lost to any Irish side, and now forms part of Munster Rugby mythology. A stage play named Alone it Stands (by John Breen), and a book entitled Stand Up and Fight: When Munster Beat the All Blacks by Alan English were both based on the event. Both have been commercially successful. Alone it Stands has had several sell-out runs in Ireland and abroad. Stand Up and Fight was a bestseller in 2005.
The All Blacks returned to Thomond Park in November 2008 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1978 match, and to celebrate the opening of the new stadium. After 76 minutes of the match, Munster were winning 16–13, but a late try from Joe Rokocoko meant the All Blacks won 18–16.
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