DUBLIN Nov 16 Ireland has turned the tale of
its most reviled bank into an "Avenue Q"-style musical comedy
because - as the show's tagline goes - "it only takes a few
muppets to screw an entire country."
Featuring puppets of Irish Prime Ministers past and present
and even one of German Chancellor Angel Merkel, "Anglo: The
Musical" opened in Dublin this week, charting the rise and fall
of the bank that has come to personify Ireland's boom and bust.
The bank is Anglo Irish Bank, the scandal-hit, failed lender
that led a reckless credit splurge in the heady "Celtic Tiger"
years and cost taxpayers a whopping 30 billion euros ($38.38
billion) during a capitulation that saw the country accept a
humiliating financial bail out.
"When we had the idea about two years ago, we thought we've
got to put this on in eight months or the Anglo story will be
dead, but we were wrong about that," said Darren Smith, one of
the show's producers and a co-author of the original story.
"Anglo has become part of the vernacular. They were the
poster boys for the boom so appropriately they are the poster
boys for the bust. The case could be made that we've made Celtic
Tiger the musical but once you call it Anglo, things get noisy."
Smith's biting satire, brought to the stage by well-known
Irish author Paul Howard, tells the story of a poor, young
couple living on the fictional 'Inis Dull' (Dull Island), one of
whom has their head turned when Anglo opens a local branch.
Urged to get on the property ladder before it's too late,
they borrow 890 million euros to build a 40-storey apartment and
retail unit beside their modest home, an exaggerated example of
those who were gifted credit but now struggle pay mortgages.
The narrative switches between the west coast and Dublin
where at Anglo's headquarters, the bank's chief executive
approves multi-million euro loans while playing golf in his
"Put A Zero On The End, He's A Friend," the bankers sing.
An audience awaiting a sixth austerity budget in five years,
partly as a result of the actions of banks like Anglo, know how
it all ends, but judging from this week's opening performances,
they are at least able to laugh about it.
"This whole thing of laughter is the best medicine...
medicine is the best medicine but laughter can be a great
release valve on the stresses of the situation," said Smith.
"It's not for us to tell people 'I know you've lost your
house but really isn't it hysterical'. But for a lot of people,
this a way of getting a little bit of relief."