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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: Oliver Cromwell Is Really Very Sorry

Oliver Cromwell Is Really Very Sorry, Image by LUXXXER


That must have been some production meeting. The one where Xnthony proposed doing a musical about Oliver Cromwell. One can see producer Hannah Turk wondering had he gone off his meds again? Apprehensions unlikely eased as the production took shape. Emma Bailey's mountainous backdrop looking constructed by The Russell Theatre Academy for the Clinically Ungifted, ages seven and under. Joey A Frenette's costumes reminiscent of Mrs Maher's, the blind Tipperary seamstress, after her arthritis took hold (seriously though, the blood spattered, St George's Cross cloak is a stroke of genius). And let's not even begin with Sarah Blanc's world tour choreography, coming to a nursing home near you. Simply put: Oliver Cromwell Is Really Very Sorry is a serious car crash of a musical. What's more, it's a deliberate car crash of a musical. But it's a brash, funny and divine car crash of a musical, beautifully directed by Sam Curtis Lindsay. Why say it when you can sing it?

Infused with the irreverence of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Oliver Cromwell Is Really Very Sorry is unadulterated good fun. Why Oliver Cromwell, given the Irish hate him and the English don't remember him? Well he was the guy who massacred Irish Catholics and drove the remainder to the shameful pits of Connaught. A man who helped depose a king, before dying of malaria he caught in Ireland. His remains later dug up to be hung, drawn and quartered and his head left on a spike for decades before disappearing into a biscuit tin. You have to admit, it's a lot more unsavoury, and deliciously digestible, than a biopic of Mother Teresa.

But Oliver Cromwell Is Really Very Sorry is really not a biopic. Rather it plays loose and looser with the facts so it can play at being a parody. Cromwell's overwhelming desire to be a celebrity thespian allowing it to parody theatre, actors, and celebrity, along with the musical as an art form. All set against ÓDÚ's mischievously brilliant, synth pop score, which is a foot stomping, hand clapping delight. Including such mega-hits as the Eurotrash, summer dance sensation Puritans, and what's guaranteed to be this year's Christmas number one, Oliver, Come Home. Rumours that Sexy Civil War and Hot Blood are joint favourites to win Tony’s this year have yet to be confirmed. But either as an entry in next years Eurovision seems very likely.

It takes phenomenal talent to make a show look this tacky. The lord that is Lórcan Strain, the kingly Sé Carr, the God-like Iestyn Arwel and all round mistress of magic, Alison Arnopp, prove phenomenally good at being phenomenally bad. As is the sublimely brilliant Anthony Keigher/Xnthony as the bass toned beast with delusions of grandeur. There's no point in saying any more. Just go and see it. Oliver Cromwell Is Really Very Sorry is arguably the greatest, best worst musical of all time, ever, bar none. There is, of course, one problem. It means finally allowing Cromwell have his moment onstage.

Oliver Cromwell Is Really Very Sorry by Xnthony, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2022 at Project Arts Centre until September 24.

For more information visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2022


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