Patrick Mason, director of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, made an astute and obvious decision in deciding to restage this 1985 production to mark Northern Ireland’s ceasefire. Observe the Sons of Ulster is a poignant, multi- layered play striking deep into Irish history with an impassioned never bludgeoning anti-war message that is both timeless and universal.

This humorous, moving production focuses on eight disparate Ulster men who formed that minority of World War I soldiers regarding themselves as fighting for the British army, as opposed to the Republicans, for whom post-war peace meant Home Rule.

From his death bed, Pyper - the group’s sole survivor - is desparately seeking assurance that his friends’ deaths are not categorised as merely forgettable cannon fodder, but justified in the name of noble Ulster.

The audience is then thrust back to 1916 when the group comes together at training camp. Barrack banter, friendship, differences and gradually, the need to survive as a unified group, emerge. Only when on leave in Northern Ireland do the intense personal battles raging within each man as he questions the deal of death

Bang the drum: Dublin’s Abbey Theatre re-create a tale of Ulstermen torn between loyalty and life

in exchange for the validity ot ‘the cause’ - be it Ulster or war come rampaging through.

Given the gravity of Frank McGuinness’s script, humour plays a vital balancing role in making this a convincing, powerful production. An excellent cast and a simple lighting set complement superbly some extremely moving themes. (Ann Donald)

Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (Festival) Abbey Theatre, seen at the King’s Theatre, 18 Aug. Run ended.


The keyboard won't work. Half the show is Earl behind the piano. and it isn't even spluttering. but professional Fringe- meister ()kin ploughs on. managing to fill the


Gerry Gowans is intense. She attributes this to being female and Australian. resulting in girlie nights discussing 'the subversion of dominant paradigms in a patriarchal society".

Not that Gowans is a kneejerk male-baslter. Men are ‘eute. adorable and gorgeous'. liscept when they sniff their own emissions under the bedsheets. And those scrotums gooseberries from hell.

It is the tnale authorship of female myths such as Stron- ll’liire and Dorothy from The ll’izrtn/ u) 0: that gets Gowans's goat. After all. ‘Supertnan doesn't need baskets and dogs. He just fucks off into the sky.‘

Incisive and endearing. Gowans should sail through her Phl) in stand- tip. (Brian Donaldson)

I Gerry Gowans (Fringe) Hill Street Theatre (Venue 4|) 22() ()522. until 2 Sept. 6.30pm. £5 (£4).


Mainstream theatre can be

pretty thin on the ground at the Fringe. and if it‘s a good old-fashioned musical you're after. you're likely to be found wanting. Enter Annie. the answer to all your musical


prayers. From glossy costumes to show - stopping numbers. the National Youth .‘yltisrc 'l'heatre have got it covered. With a show such as this. there's very little leeway in terms of innovation. so your only goal is to do it well ~— wliich they do. with as much pizza/.1. and slickness as any West land show staged by “grow it» tips“. Being one of the only shows around that adults and children can enjoy equally. it looks certain to be packed out nightly. (Kelly McMenamin) I ATIIIIB (Fringe) National

’outh Music Theatre. George Square Theatre (Venue 37) 650 200l. until 28 Aug (not 27) times vary. £3427.


England's flame-haired former monarch is

Annie: pizazz and slickness

presented as a thigh- slappmg lll\‘\_\ straight off the panto circuit in this one woman show set Ill her hidey hole cum former playroom. This provides the perfect excuse to reminisce oyer former glories while name— droppnig the great and the good of her \\ ell-heeled LilillL'l'lt'.

\Vlnle per formed with a jolly hockey-sticks. gusto completely contrary to the notion of the apparently weak thklletl qtl'e‘ell.

l ebame Houston's script is lifted straight front the archives. and men though Waller Raleigh sounds like a hit of a lad. little colour is added to the legend. A trip to the library would doiust as well. (Neil (‘ooperl

I Elizabeth H tl'ringel lili/abeth R and (‘o: l’ioneer 'l‘heatre l'SA. l‘estiyal ('luh ( \enue 3m (r50 23%. until 20 Aug.

i (i..‘\()pltl; Adam llotise 'l'heatre (Venue strain

8200. 27 Aug 2 Sept. 4pm. Ll (U).


In adapting Bill Bryson’s hugely

allotted hour more or less.

Y‘see. he's a jazzy guitar man and once he strays away from his frankly repulsive 'not quite parodic enough if you ask me' scuuy-old- bloke-ogling-the-girls-in- the-audience thang. he has a pleasing line in quirky country and western pisstakes and even straight blues tunes. played with consummate ease: the old guy in front of rue nodded appreciatively. Drop the slea/e. liarl. (Cait Hurley) I Earl Okin The Legend (l‘ringe). The Music Box (Venue 50) 220 4847. until 2 Sept. 7.35pm. £6.50 (£4.50).

Earl Okln: legendary sleaze

Mark Little: off-the-cuff madness

I m


'We‘re all Tarantino's children.' explains Mark

: Little. suddenly E Australia's answer to Dr

Anthony Clare. And we are hungry. horny junkies dying for a laugh. if you follow Little‘s logic. But the comedy stage isn't a film set and you would find more crack in the good doctor's own wee country.

Truth is. too much structure in Mark Little Sucks. as in real life. is

38 The List 25 Ang-7 Sent l‘)()5

bringing the Little man down. Is this why the comedian claims to be popping Prozac in front ol the audience'.’

When he breaks from this for off-the-cuff madness and freestyle body-talk his show is a visitor’s passport to Planet Happy Heart. On balance though. I‘d say those pills are yeast tablets. Don't do it Mark! Don‘t succumb to Sanatogen hell! (Deirdre Molloy)

I Mark Little Sucks (Fringe) Mark Little. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. 25/26 Aug. 7.35pm. £9.50 (£8.50).

popular travelogue for the stage, Paul ‘Fever Pitch’ llodson has desperately tried to find some drama in what was essentially an account of being bored rigid in the backwoods of middle America. Whose Line Is It Anyway? regular Steve Steen does a creditable job of playing Bryson and a succession of characters the anglophile writer met on his journey back to his American roots.

Bryson’s journey was an odyssey in search of the perfect American town which he calls Amalgam, but most at the places he pitches up in would be more aptly named Dullard. In the book, Bryson took delight in meeting eccentrics who had a kind of infectious enthusiasm for their weird enterprises, such as the garage mechanic who makes sculptures from exhaust pipes.

However by simplifying each encounter to a couple of lines of dialogue, llodson has left out much of the book’s real insight. What remains is the portrayal of Bryson as a rather cynical traveller who scores cheap laughs by imitating the hayseeds who populate small town America. Anyone who loves Bryson’s deeply ironic, but ultimately generous, prose style is

The Lost Continent: bored in the backwoods

likely to be disappointed by this rather unsubtle adaptation.

It was always going to be difficult creating a character from Bryson’s first person narration, in which the author doesn’t really reveal much about himselt. This adaptation of The lost Continentadds little to the experience of reading the book, but judged independently, Steen’s polished performance otters just about enough laughs to sustain the 70-minute show. (Eddie Gibb)

The Lost Continent (Fringe) Assembly Rooms ( Venue 3) 226 2428, until 2 Sept (not 29) 7.40pm, £8. 50/? 7. 50 (£7. 50/26. 50).