Corn Exchange founders Annie Ryan and Michael West write for Culture about their production The Fall of the Second Republic, a satirical (and anarchic) look at what Ireland might have become, 50 years after its independence, currently playing at The Abbey Theatre.
The Fall of the Second Republic surfaced as an idea about 10 years ago. We had just presented Freefall in the Abbey during the snows of the IMF bailout. That was a show about what it feels like when the rug is pulled out from under your feet, about loss and letting go — and used the personal, private history of an ordinary man to navigate the overwhelming horrors gripping Ireland at the time, including the Ryan report and the collapse of the economy. And then our funding was cut in half.
Among other things, this meant our desire to pursue the kind of collaborative, ensemble theatre-making that led to Dublin by Lamplight, Everyday and Freefall had to be deferred until we found a co-producing partner.
The idea for the show itself was to look at political and economic collapse from the other side of the table to Freefall — in the halls and rooms where power was wielded.
In this game, every show is your last. Until the next one.
And if one way of looking at Dublin by Lamplight was as a vaudevillian study of the politics of theatre, this was to follow the grandchildren of that revolutionary generation in a paranoid-conspiracy narrative about the theatre of politics.
Listen: Director Annie Ryan and writer Michael West join Seán Rocks in studio on RTÉ Arena
For this we were drawn to the 70s, stylistically as well as in terms of material. Apart from its relevance to the turbulent period of political change in Ireland and abroad, this is the era of Watergate, the highwater mark of investigative journalism — largely because it was the end of politicians' fear of the truth. Which brings us back to the current moment: how to make work about these things in a post-truth, post-satire age?
When we presented Dublin by Lamplight at the Abbey Theatre in 2017, these concerns seemed more relevant than ever — and, happily for us, provided us the opportunity to pitch our new show and find a co-producer. It’s been a privilege and a joy to make, and we’re very grateful for the support over all these years.
Recent funding cuts have marked another chapter change for the company. More grave than the last time perhaps, but we remain optimistic and even excited for whatever new adventures and partnerships lie ahead. In this game, every show is your last. Until the next one.
The Fall of the Second Republic is at the Abbey Theatre until March 14th - more details here.