Brian Cowen (Micheál Martin) and the 7 Deadly Sinners

Fionn Ó Loingsigh as Brian Cowen in 'Brian Cowen (Micheál Martin) and the 7 Deadly Sinners'. Photo: Des McMahon

Fionn Ó Loingsigh as Brian Cowen in 'Brian Cowen (Micheál Martin) and the 7 Deadly Sinners'. Photo: Des McMahon

The story, as the title suggests, is a familiar one at this stage. Clocking in at around 50 minutes, Brian Cowen (Micheál Martin) and the 7 Deadly Sinners once again rakes over the tale of how those who have now gone off to graze on fat pensions ruined the country with a mixture of arrogance and ignorance and seeming indifference to the plight of the majority of the citizens of this country.

Under the assured and measured direction of Anthony Fox, the ensemble cast are first presented as classic criminals in a line-up identity parade with narrated similarities made between these politicians and our more conventional law-breakers. This analogy is dropped as quickly as it is introduced as Olli Rehn (Elga Fox) adopts the role of storyteller and narrator. The portrait of our seven deadly sinners alters from that of gangster to exotic ape-like creatures to the backdrop of vaguely David Attenborough-esque descriptions. We are subsequently taken on a predictable – with the exception of a fictionalised sequence of how our sinners might have behaved together in the playground as children – journey that regurgitates the governmental misdemeanours of the past decade or so, including Cowen's infamous 'hungover' interview on RTÉ Radio.

Yes a lot of it is funny and excoriating, and you can marvel at how low this lot of ‘power players’ have fallen in public estimation that virtually anything can now be said about them. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the same public who now reviles and mocks them, voted them back into power only four years ago when their sins were not any less simply because the economy was booming. It’s an indication of the simplistic level of this production that such issues are not tackled, nor did it ever intend to do so.

Photo: Des McMahonFor the record, the not so magnificent seven here are Brian Cowen (Fionn Ó Loingsigh), Bertie Ahern (Aidan Crowe), Seanie Fitzpatrick (Kieron Smith), Mary Harney (Andrea Cleary), Brian Lenihan (Conor Donelan), Charlie McCreevy (Danny Kehoe) and the aforementioned Olli Rehn. The sole purpose of Brian Cowen and the 7 Deadly Sinners seems to be to further denigrate and insult these main culprits in the collapse of the nation with pretty crude and school-boyish humour that mostly presents all concerned as drunken, lustful and greedy louts. There is a certain vindictive pleasure in it all but even that begins to wear pretty thin when you realise there’s little else to Brian Cowen and the 7 Deadly Sinners.

The performances are very much that of an ensemble. Perhaps to emphasise what a tightly knit group this bunch of bandits were, most of the moves on stage happen with the ensemble as good as inside each other’s pockets and virtually linked arm to arm. Like most of the criticism of the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats axis of power out of which these ‘sinners’ stem, it’s all a bit superficial and ten years too late. As a piece of historical record Brian Cowen and the 7 Deadly Sinners will be a measure of how hated those represented became. As a slice of theatre, however, it is too slight to truly engage.

Patrick Brennan was chief theatre critic for the Irish Examiner from 1992 to 2004, is currently a freelance journalist, critic and lecturer and is writing a book on the theatre of Tom Murphy

  • Review
  • Theatre

Brian Cowen (Micheál Martin) and the 7 Deadly Sinners by Rua O’Donnachu

22 Feb - 5 March, 2011

Produced by The New Theatre
In The New Theatre

Directed by Anthony Fox

Set Design: Fionn McShane

Lighting Design: Cathy O’Carroll

Sound Design: Shane Fitzmaurice

Costume Design: Aislinn Lawlor

With: Fionn Ó Loingsigh, Aidan Crowe, Kieron Smith, Andrea Cleary, Conor Donelan, Danny Kehoe and Elga Fox.