The Great Goat Bubble, a story of the Emperor’s new clothes without the boy.

Fishamble: the new play company latest production The Great Goat Bubble written by Julian Gough’s had its premiere at this year’s Galway Arts Festival. As their title reflects Fishamble only present new plays, and the variety of the works they have produced has been very diverse, some productions such as their recent show Silent delicately deals with very difficult subject matter without alienating its audience.

The Great Goat Bubble is a classic tale of hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil in Irish society that up to now has been side-stepped by Irish theatre. Had Julian Gough’s The Great Goat Bubble attempted to tell the story of the greatest economic bubble in the history of the Irish in a naturalistic setting, the play might have been suffocated by needless dissection of detail thus missing the point.

A classic example of how difficult it can be to capture the true values of Irish society was Sebastian Barry’s Hinterland a satirical play based loosely on the life of former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey which failed to win over its audience or even the critics. Evidence that Irish society has yet to face up to its part in the economic bubble is alive and well and was witnessed last week by thousands of people marching in support of Sean Quinn with many prominent GAA figures and of Fr Brain Darcy in attendance. Of course Sean Quinn did a lot of good in the area of Cavan/Monaghan in the past but he undid all that when he gambled reckless with both the future of his workers and the entire country and we all lost. He was very much one of the chief architects of the bubble and Ireland’s downfall.

The beauty of The Great Goat Bubble is that the story beings the audience to faraway Somaliland, Dr Ibrahim Bihi an economist now exile played by Wil Johnson strikes up a conversation with Irish orphan, Jude, played by Ciaran O’Brien. Both are waiting on the platform of Ballinasloe railway station in the winter of 1987. Over the public address we get a number of comical excuses why the Dublin bound train has been delayed.

While sharing a piece of goat meat Dr Ibrahim begins to tell the orphan Jude how in Somali he came to lose everything with the exception of one 3 legged goat, and in a bizarre twist of fortune he discovered a simple and profitable scheme to regain his fortune. Jude an unsophisticated orphan needs to develop a story (comical) to help him visualise the complex story of economics Dr Ibrahim is presenting. Slowly and clearly you begin to understand through a farcical tale of creating a market in goats that becomes hyper inflated, and relation to our own property bubble.  To bring the point home Dr Ibrahim tells Jude as the train finally approaches the purpose of his visit to Dublin is to meet Charles Haughey as he opens the Irish Financial Services Centre.

The Great Goat Bubble will no doubt in time will be used as a reference to how absurd Irish society had become during the Celtic tiger years and raise the question why more people did not shout stop.

Set by Sabine Dargent provides a very simple but relaxed setting for the play. If it makes an appearance in a theatre near you in the near future be sure and see it.

© Tom Dowling 2012 images by Tom Dowling from the opening night.

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