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Julian’s new play shines a light on economics – and humanity

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 11-Jul-2012

He has previously directed such memorable plays as Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce and Penelope for Druid Theatre. They both won Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival. So too did Trad, a comedy written by Mark Doherty, directed by Mikel, which premiered at the 2005 Galway Arts Festival.

Now Mikel Murfi is back in Galway, directing a new production for the Arts Festival. The Great Goat Bubble, by Julian Gough is a co-production between the Festival and Dublin’s Fishamble Company, which specialises in new plays.

The Great Goat Bubble is a story about the human condition, told in an unusual and gentle way, explains Mikel, who describes the piece as “gorgeously concise and lovely, and very subtle”.

In this short, humorous play, “Julian is able to teach us how world economics work”, says Mikel during a break from rehearsing the show in Druid Theatre.

The Great Goat Bubble has two characters, Somali economist Dr Ibrahim Bihi and young orphan, Jude who meet on the train platform at Ballinasloe in 1986, as a sleepy Ireland dreams of a modern future.

The two men, played by Wil Johnson and Ciaran O’Brien, begin a discussion about the world’s economy, and Dr Bihi tells Jude about a goat enterprise he started in his native land, as he explains how he made his first million. Mikel likens this tale to the biblical parable of the talents told by Jesus, in which people are encouraged to increase their money.

“Bihi is very seductive because he believes so much in this economic model,” explains Mikel, adding that the problem with Bihi’s model – like the failed model of the Western world – is that it requires everybody to be honest.

But, when “a small amount of movers and shakers at the top of every heap decide the worth of people lower down”, honesty doesn’t win out, says Mikel.

And because Jude is like “an idiot savant” he asks questions to Dr Bihi that shine a light on how world economics work. “Jude comes to things from a left-of-field way. His innocence is remarkable,” observes Mikel.

Dr Bihi’s answers are revealing. “The bogus nature of what economists do to us would nearly make you angry, except that it’s couched in a funny play,” says Mikel.

The Great Goat Bubble will have resonances for Irish people, the director feels.

“It’s not aggressive or barracking the audience,” he adds. “It’s a kind of meditative piece that helps you reflect on the truth, and not a major diatribe or a rally against the economists or banks or government.

“The characters are very rounded, but you almost don’t see the humanity arriving. It’s difficult to tell exactly where you get involved in the human stories behind the two guys.”

One man is preaching his theory of economics with a religious zeal; the other is an innocent abroad.

“But the audience realise they are almost like Jude,” says Mikel, pointing to the way the Irish public bought Eircom shares years ago after being advised to by the Government. Then, during the ‘boom years’ people received economic advice from all sides, much of which proved disastrous.

The play highlights the daft way the world economy works, adds Mikel, citing Ireland’s return to the bond markets last Thursday to borrow five million euro.

“That’s all about money that doesn’t exist – it’s theoretical money, he says. “There isn’t a room in Ireland with five billion in it and there never will be. And nobody will ever come looking for it.”

The Great Goat Bubble in its current incarnation was developed from a radio drama which Julian Gough wrote for the BBC. Before that again, he wrote it as a short story which appeared in the Financial Times.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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