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Review Of McGarry's Irish History Lesson
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Tim McGarry’s Irish History Lesson

Review

By George Fleeton

Tim McGarry, and his Irish History Lesson, strode in to a packed Great Hall (March 16th) and proceeded to do what only good satirists are capable of, namely to throw ridicule, irony and sarcasm at us and to make it stick to our sometimes awkward and embarrassed laughter.

Few follies or vices of centuries of Irish history escaped his probing: his surgical instrument may have been at times blunt, and the end effect a bit repetitive, but the engagement was physical, energetic and it took few prisoners.

This is the same McGarry, by the way, who, a few days earlier, had written and produced, with his Hole in the Wall Gang, the BBC1 two-part drama Brendan Smyth – Betrayal of Trust.

Satire is a dangerous game to play in public.

It’s like using your hand to launch fireworks.

The really great satirists attacked human behaviour in order to expose and possibly to reform common human failings such as greed and vanity.

Horace – the gentle approach – and Juvenal – the more savage approach – were historically responsible for developing this less than fine art form, long before it found its spiritual niche in cartoons and comic strips, black humour and sitcoms.

Satirical writing reached its apotheosis in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and in Voltaire’s Candide (published about 30 years apart in the 18th century) and we saw pale reflections of Irish satire here two years ago in a production of Spike Milligan’s Puckoon.

What made McGarry’s performance much better than an awful night in a pub with a lousy comedian, was his theming – his central platform of Irish history for dummies, as he said himself – which allowed him to gallop all over the place, sweating, and sipping his insipid-looking Guinness.

It wasn’t possible to review here the recent production of Donizetti’s comic opera Don Pasquale (Great Hall, February 24th) but Downe Independent Promotions would like to thank everyone who turned up in such gratifying numbers to support the event.

On February 25th in the QFT there is an introduced screening of John Huston’s film The African Queen, with Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, to mark its 60th anniversary.

And on April 6th in Down County Museum there will be a half-day seminar on Sam Hanna Bell’s 1951 novel December Bride, followed by a screening of the 1991 film based on that book which was shot on location on and around Strangford Lough.