This rugby comedy written and directed by John Breen was first seen in County Mayo in 1999, and has since been seen by an estimated 100,000 people in various venues in Ireland. Now the play has ‘unfortunately ‘ arrived in London’s West End for a six-week limited run. I say unfortunately because this is a play that has fringe written all over it, not West End! It will only appeal to a small number of people, mainly rugby fans as there is not much to get excited about for the ‘ordinary’ theatregoer.
It tells the story of Munster, a local Irish rugby team, who beat the mighty All Blacks in 1978. Although there are side stories like two fanatical Limerick supporters doing everything they can to get a ticket, a birth, awake, a bonfire and other minor episodes, the drama primarily sticks to the historic match. This means many scenes with tackles, scrums etc all accompanied by the apparent necessity of grunting. Now this may be exciting for sporting fans, but for me it is plainly dull, made even more so as we know the result of the match!
The first act is drearily monotonous as the first half of the rugby game is played out, but after the interval the play does pick up as there is less emphasis on the rugby and more on the characters.
While the play may be somewhat lacking, the same cannot be said of the cast. The six actors, Malcolm Adams, Dessie Gallagher, Garrett Lombard, Gerry McCann, Niamh McGrath and Paul Meade are exceptionally talented. They play a total of 60 characters between them and brilliantly shine as they switch accents and guises at will, with no props or change of clothing to help. It is a professional and solid outfit indeed.
Designer Jack Kirwan had the easiest job. There are only two benches on either side of the stage and a backdrop of silhouetted houses and churches on a screen behind. Mind you that is all that is needed as this is a physical play that relies on your imagination to establish the atmosphere of the match.
The show has received mixed notices from the popular press..... NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "The show remains unatmospheric, unevocative and lacking in elation or excitement." IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "All sweat and no blood and tears." He goes on to say, "Even though the show’s good-natured vitality sweeps you along, the script remains stubbornly caricature-heavy." DOMINIC CAVENDISH for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says the director and author John Breen "has been astute enough to make this an evening of jokey, self-deprecating theatricality that doesn't crow too loudly at the unexpected triumph." PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "A delightful evening."
Lasting 2 hours, "Alone It Stands" does have its moments and there are some light comic touches but I’m sure many will find it dull. If you’re not a sporting fan then give this a miss.
Links to full reviews from newspapers...