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  • Chris ORourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2018: Free EU Roaming

Free EU Roaming by Rule Of Three Collective. Image by Jo Kemp


Passive Political Posing

An Englishwoman, an Irishwoman, and a German woman walk into a bar. Heard it? How about this one. An Englishwoman, an Irishwoman, and a German woman get stuck in a hostel bar while heading to a music festival in Barcelona. A festival they never quite get to. Instead, trapped indoors, they watch a riot break out between police and a protesting crowd looking for independence from Spain. In Rule Of Three Collective’s “Free EU Roaming” the politics of dancing soon gives way as three unnamed travellers sacrifice the personal for some passive political posing in a brave production that's two parts joy, four parts overt political homily.

Not that a political lecture can’t be interesting. And indeed, at times, “Free EU Roaming” strays into some politically interesting territory. Yet its thoughts on nationalism, national identity, and even Brexit, more often regurgitate rather than reveal anything new. Endless questions in which history, politics, and political history converge, are often presented in a self-aware, and self-congratulatory limited and limiting fashion. Something director Rosa Bowden never fully comes to grips with. If Bowden excels at composition, her pedestrian, prolonged pace and simplistic physical vocabulary can often be distracting. Distracting too is Leanne Bergin’s sound design against which vocals often compete. Yet when things do come together, and they often do, particularly during a superbly executed final sequence, “Free EU Roaming” can be a genuine pleasure.

Never more a pleasure than when Katie O’Byrne as the defiant Irishwoman, Caroline Galvis as the know-it-all German woman, and Sineád Brady as the billy-no-friends Englishwoman step away from being political mouthpieces into being flesh and blood characters worried about boyfriends, being single, or returning home. All of whom, being humorously and humanely rendered, are all the more politically potent for being so. Yet, as a prolonged argument on whether to offer assistance to a wounded protester reveals, these women don’t really matter so much as the political position they give voice to. A shame really, for you could enjoyably, and informatively, spend days in their company. Yet the hour spent listening to their political proselytising often makes for a long ask.

A dichotomy that has direct repercussions. While both Galvis and Brady deliver impassioned performances, alternating between the personal and political proves to be uneven and inconsistent. Not the case with a supremely impressive Katie O'Byrne who manages to traverse both with great success, even allowing for the fact that her Irish character has neither German history nor Brexit to expound on.

If “Free EU Roaming” can be a demanding sixty minutes, it has some pertinent questions to ask and raises some interesting political points. Something three fun performances can make engaging, especially when political posing gives way to the personal, suggesting there’s much more to come from this industrious trio.

“Free EU Roaming” by Rule Of Three Collective runs a Smock Alley Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2018 until September 13

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