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DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: Free EU Roaming – Smock Alley, Dublin

Writers: Katie O’Byrne, Caroline Galvis, and Sinead Brady

Director: Rosa Bowden

Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster

The ambition of Free EU Roaming was certainly not in question, but it was difficult to avoid the feeling that not enough had been done in the hour it occupied. Set in a Barcelona hostel during last year’s disrupted referendum on Catalan independence, the play is a discussion between three young women, one each from Ireland, England, and Germany. Seeking to explore ideas of history, belonging, and to what extent one should be proud of one’s country and culture, the piece lays out a large number of ideas, but regrettably fails to explore any of them deeply enough. Brexit, Northern Ireland, Catalonia, Nazi Germany, marriage equality, and abortion is too large a list for anyone to delve into in one evening.

The performances, from O’Byrne, Galvis, and Brady, were all excellent, though, with their characters largely ringing true, despite some potential inconsistencies. Brady, especially, as the timid English character, showcased superb comic timing early on when awkwardly stuffing a rain mac into its bag. The script could possibly have done with being less weighted towards O’Byrne’s Irish character, but this is to be expected. Galvis’s German is possibly the most complex of the three, whose ambivalent attitude towards nationality, along with the frank admission of Nazi heritage in her family, shocks the other two. The performances were all, in their own way, charming, and the characters well drawn. The respective costumes, from the German’s nose piercing to the Irish’s crown of flowers, were each perfect, and they were all instantly recognisable as real people.

The piece is interrupted by several dance sequences, culminating in a final segment that, regrettably, delves into little more than listing stereotypes. Though these do get some laughs (“Self-deprecating sense of humour… Dark sense of humour… No sense of humour”), once again the feeling is that the space to say something has been used for surface level recapitulation of very familiar narratives. That said, they make excellent use of the small space available to them, the choreography is good, and, using only three large cuboid blocks, create a realistic and claustrophobic atmosphere.

This play without a doubt showcases significant talent from all involved, but like so many other shows, often fails to achieve the right balance of humour and social commentary. The sheer number of ideas is at times overwhelming, and this reviewer just wishes it was a piece that had a better idea of what it wanted to say.

Runs until 13 September 2018 | Image: Contributed

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