Improbably Frequency (4 stars)

  • 14 August 2006

This article is from 2006.

To write on Anglo Irish relations is to enter a pretty crowded area in the theatre, so few companies can be expected to be truly original, yet Irish company Rough Magic have achieved this triumphantly. This quite mad but nevertheless strictly logical musical by Arthur Riordan and Bell Helicopter delights as it reaches its goal through some wildly witty song and verse dialogue mixed cabaret pastiche music delivered live.

In it, a dopey young cryptographer Faraday (Peter Hanly) working for wartime British intelligence is packed off to a field mission in Dublin to keep an eye on the Nazi sympathising IRA of the free state. Here he encounters such figures as bigoted John Betjeman (Louis Lovett), pissed up Flann O’Brien (Darragh Kelly) and even dirty old Erwin Schrodinger (Dan Gordon) in one of those noted-historical-figures-all-in-one -city-by -historic-coincidence comedies that you might remember from Stoppard’s Travesties. Meanwhile he’s teased and tempted by femme fatale Agent Green (Cathy White) and sweet and waifish local Philomena (Lisa Lambe).

Lynne Parker’s production is utterly charming, while Riordan’s book is full of the kind of risible wordplay and groan making puns that O’Brien himself might have been proud of. There really isn’t a moment of rest from the piece’s relentless playfulness, which all looks great on Alan Farquharson’s pub/restaurant/radio station set. The comic highlight, an interrogation that turns into seduction between Faraday and Philomena will I suspect, leave you weak with laughter. The performances, too are outstanding, with Hanly’s hard-of-thinking Englishman a grand lead. Meanwhile Lambe’s brilliant innocent, a silent matinee idol ingénue, trading pleading looks and knowing winks with her audience takes the Lillian Gish marvelously " it is perhaps the performance of the fringe. This is a priority ticket for the fringe. (Steve Cramer)

Traverse, 228 1404, until 27 Aug, times vary, £15 (£10).

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