Written by Arthur Riordan. Music by Bell Helicopter. Directed by Lynne Parker, starring Declan Conlon, Peter Hanly, Darragh Kelly, Lisa Lambe, Rory Nolan and Cathy White. At the O'Reilly Theatre, Dublin until 9 October.
Rough Magic's presentation of Arthur Riordan's brainchild proves that taking a risk in theatre can really pay off. With ingenuity and an abundance of creative talent in evidence, 'Improbable Frequency' ensures that its isolation in the Irish musical comedy genre does nothing to diminish its spectacle.
Back we wander to De Valera's Ireland, where the country is in a state of blissful ignorance as World War II takes hold elsewhere. But what if preserving Ireland's so-called neutrality is all just a front? Could secret forces possibly be operating within Ireland, creating nuclear weapons behind smokescreens?
Enter British intelligence's latest recruit in the shape of Tristram Faraday (Hanly). Now if it's code-breaking and clue-solving you're after then crossword hotshot Faraday is indeed the man, but on the business of blending into Irish life as a planted spy hoping to infiltrate whatever secret forces are at work, well Faraday might just be a little out of his depth.
As he seeks out the truth on Irish shores, Faraday is drawn in many different directions, his suspicions aroused with regard to just about everyone he meets. Why do the songs on O'Dromedary's (Nolan) popular radio show all seem to forecast the weather? Why does the lovely Philomena (Lambe) turn up everywhere there's trouble? Just what do the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger (Conlon) and the hack Myles na gCopaleen (Kelly) have to hide?
What Riordan provides us with is a witty script and a range of characters that are stereotypical without being tired. And he surely could not have asked for a better group of actors to bring the script to life. While Peter Hanly is simply inspirational in depicting the eccentric mannerisms of the faltering Faraday, it is Lisa Lambe who steals the show as the not-so-innocent Philomena O'Shea.
Musically the show is super and Bell Helicopter's sound design never falls short of the mark. A word must also go to Alan Farquharson's set design, which is both unintrusive and elaborate.
'Improbable Frequency' pokes fun at just about everything that is Irish on both sides of the border. From a very light-hearted take on the troubles in Northern Ireland, down to the prevailing mood of bitterness between Ireland and its nearest neighbour, Riordan offers us a very unpolitically correct look at who we are.
If only for the novelty of seeing an Irish musical comedy, then book your tickets for this feisty and energetic production.