Winding up Haughey/ Gregory

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Morgan C Jones as Haughey plays against Ruairí Heading’s Gregory. Photo: Anthony Woods

THE ‘Haughey/ Gregory’ show falls into an interesting category that we don’t see a lot, the documentary play. Written by journalist Colin Murphy, Murphy has a successful record in the genre, touring previously with plays about the banking crisis, ‘Guaranteed’ and ‘Bailed Out!’

His working partner is Fishamble The New Play Company. ‘Haughey/ Gregory’ is his fourth outing, with Conall Morrisson returning to the director’s chair.

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For all the weight of the subject matter, the billion-punt [£82million in 1982’s money] deal promised by Charles Haughey’s hung government in 1982 to Tony Gregory, the writer primes our expectations for a right good laugh. Better still, he will anchor a post-show discussion at Lime Tree Theatre for this one-night staging on Friday May 10 at 8pm.

“We tried out ‘Haughey/ Gregory’ last year for a few nights at The Peacock Theatre and it went down a storm,” the likeable Dubliner says. “So Fishamble decided to bring it all around the country.”

Living close to Dublin’s north inner city, Murphy describes this satirical play “as a local story. Yet people who saw it says it was much more than that and… drama is about finding the universal in the local.”

We are reminded of the discrepancy in the enormous package on social housing and other stories that Gregory was awarded for his vote to support the beleaguered  Fianna Fáil government. “Yet Haughey was gone eight months later so little was done.” Recall that three different governments fell in a stormy 18 months.

Colin Murphy feels the theme is contemporaneous with the uncertainty re Brexit, Stormont’s collapse, our own ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement between FF, FG and Independents and “the bitter irony of all the work put into the deal [Brexit] that has not worked out.” How does he make this mess palatable? “The key to this, as I learnt in  ‘Guaranteed’ and ‘Bailed Out!’ is to milk the comedy.”

Referencing the many laughs to ‘Scrap Saturday’ and ‘The West Wing’, we hear that “Haughey and Gregory are done quite straight but there are five actors, in period costumes, who play 20 or 30 parts. There’s a lot of running on, rushing off and apart from the central actors, the others are free to caricature.”

Staging is with a 1980s-acid tape projector to mark  auspicious dates and a cheesy soundtrack specific to 1982. Remember ‘Oh, Mickey, you’re so fine/ You’re so fine/ You blow my mind?’ Ah, well.

Irresistible. www.limetreetheatre.ie for booking.