Columbia March – Camden Fringe, Etcetera Theatre

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Writer: Joe Wright

Directors: Joe Wright and Eoin O’Sullivan 

Young Ger is eager to fight for the cause. A Catholic brought up in Northern Ireland, he dreams of joining the IRA on the front line to fight against the British. But this is the modern day, the Troubles are talked about in history books, and it is clear that Young Ger lives in his own little world. Ask his best friend Cecil, who just happens to be a mop.

Joe Wright’s comic creation rationalises his support for a paramilitary organisation by proclaiming that superheroes are just multicoloured terrorists (“Iron Man? Definitely Protestant”), while his guardian (Eoin O’Sullivan, who also plays several other roles) exploits his passion by giving him vital tasks to support The Cause – such as mopping the floors or restocking the baked beans in his shop.

Ger’s dreams of romance with the local beauty – who barely knows his name – are put on hold when he is given his own task: to deliver a bag of cocaine (the “Columbian marching powder” that gives this one-hour piece its name) to a contact in Scotland. The catch? He must row over there, in an inflatable dinghy.

When Ger is alone on his dinghy, the full force of Wright’s absurdist humour kicks in. As the last vestige of reality drifts away, the writer/performer’s mania produces plenty of laughs.

The strength of this section calls into question the play’s opening, in which O’Sullivan plays a befuddled stage manager pressed into playing all the other roles that Wright does not. The artifice of having a secondary role working script-in-hand is abandoned part way into the piece, and is all the better for that.

But that move is a sign that Columbia March has a surfeit of different comedic ideas shoved into it, not all of which pay off. While it remains an impressive showcase of Wright’s absurdist look on life, the lack of structural focus distracts from, rather than enhances, this show’s many charms.

Reviewed on  2 August 2022

The Camden Fringe runs from 1 – 28 August 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Absurdist comedy

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