It is a subject that should make for excellent theatre. The high intrigue and drama of the Irish financial crash is full of memorable characters, dramatic twists and high stakes. It is a shame then, that Fishamble’s Bailed Out does not quite take full advantage of the dramatic subject matter.
Bailed Out! tells the tale of the 2010 bail out of the Irish government, after they had propped up failing banks in the country. Styled as a documentary-drama, they use quotes from autobiographies, first-hand accounts, and actual records to tell the story of the Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and the rest of the government. The five actors play a range of different economists and politicians, with a large screen and desks the only set to speak of.
While most people have a working knowledge of the financial crash, and what led to EU countries being rescued, very few will know enough to keep up with Bailed Out!. Complex economic problems and issues are speedily rattled through, with the script ruthlessly leaving people behind people who can’t keep pace. On one hand, treating the audience as if they’re intelligent and savvy is a refreshing change. There is certainly no hand-holding here. But while the respect for those watching is admirable, it just doesn’t work. Jokes often fall flat, as the audience has been so bamboozled with information that most of the crowd are still catching up.
Bailed Out! also struggles with its tone. Parts of it really live up to its documentary style, teaching the audience about economics and the crash. But these lessons come thick and fast, and once again the audience gets left behind. In other parts, Bailed Out! verges on satire, but it is simply not funny enough to be considered that. So instead we are left with an inconsistent style, which is too serious for satire, and too light hearted to be fully documentary.
The actors all do well with a confusing script. Swapping characters from line to line, the fast pace is delivered effectively. What does distract from the performances however is the reliance on a script at all times on stage. If this was done for an artistic reason it was lost on me, and instead you are left with the impression that even the actors couldn’t keep up with the plot.
So unfortunately, Bailed Out! isn’t the great play of the Irish financial crash. In many ways it is an admirable failure, with the concepts working on paper, but in reality the show is over long and too confusing for a wider audience to truly appreciate. If you are an economic expert, familiar with all the details of the global economic crash, Bailed Out could be a fascinating experience. For the rest of us though, it is just too clever for its own good.
Bailed Out! was performed at the Pavilion Theatre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. This coverage of the festival was made possible thanks to Travel Supermarket. For more information to travelling to Dublin, click here.