November 16, 2012 / 3:11 PM / 5 years ago

Ireland makes "muppet" musical out of bust bank tale

DUBLIN, Nov 16 (Reuters) - 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 underpants.

“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.”

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