Alone It Stands

Alone It Stands
By John Breen. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Directed by Janine Watson. 25 January – 2 March, 2024

This funny comedy tells the story of the legendary day in 1978 when Munster, an Irish amateur football side, beat the mighty New Zealand All Blacks, undisputed kings of Rugby, 12-0 in Limerick. The All Blacks were undefeated on the remainder of that tour, so this momentous day really shines through.

Never fear, you need to know precisely nothing about the arcane rules and regulations of the game to enjoy this tumultuous, breath-taking recounting of Munster’s victory. It is great fun and really gets the audience buzzing.

A versatile cast of six are in a constant state of transformation as they play over 70 parts between them: the rival teams, spectators, assorted bystanders, the staff of the local hospital, small children, footballs, cars, and a dog called Sinbad.

As John Breen, the author, declares: Rugby is a religion in Limerick. His unpretentious play, in this restless and powerful production by Janine Watson, takes on all the contemporary Irish issues, including class and politics.

You need a little time for the magic to work though. For not only are the Irish accents at best difficult to latch on to, but also hard on the untried ears are the New Zealand accents. The first quarter hour is hard going. In fact it’s great when a very English, very BBC commentator (Skyler Ellis) reports from the stands and you miss nothing. 

On a fine grassy setting (Emma White), beautifully lit (Matt Cox) and with excellent sound (Jessica Dunn), the cast go hammer and tongs. In the first half they are in the All Blacks kit. In the second half they are dressed in the red and white Munster colours.

The committed, hard-working cast win many friends, especially the two women (Briallen Clarke and Alex King) who thrill with their all-in performances. Along with Tristan Black, Ray Chong Nee, Anthony Taufa and Skyler Ellis they can lay claim to being the best Ensemble company in 2024. And it’s only January.

Frank Hatherley

Photographer: Prudence Upton

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