Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Give My Head Peace: The long goodbye of the Hole in the Wall Gang

Give My Head Peace seems to be aiming for the Frank Sinatra record for the greatest number of farewell tours.

Now on its third lot of goodbyes, the old team packed the Grand Opera House, Belfast, last night and entertained all age groups to a show proving that “the 108 MLAs aren’t the only comedians in the country”.

Before the off, Stephanie Taggart (22) confessed in the Ladies that she loved the Gang and their gags.

“I saw Da at a charity show the other weekend and thought he was great. It's the two sides of the divide together that appeals, taking the mick out of each other. There's nothing bad in it. At the end of the day, when it comes to religion, we're all the same.”

Wise words, but of course the Hole in the Wall Gang's comedy, which began in the 1980s, depends on a certain amount of controlled vitriol.

As the female voiceover stated at the beginning, “We've got peace now — isn't it bo-oring?”

Cue the Fenian team, with Tim McGarry's Da now shouldering his political responsibilities and standing for government.

Some of the best satire came from his mobile phone exchanges with Gerry Adams, a sparring partner Da is determined to best.

Nice moments included Da taunting Gerry for comparing himself to Jesus, both of whom were accused of being terrorists and denied it.

This was broad brush stroke humour, more panto than Rory Bremner, and remains fairly affectionate satire.

Ma is making her bid for freedom (and not before time), with the saintly Olivia Nash reading the Mills and Swoon story of Iris Robinson and young Kirk — renamed Quick McCamberwick for legal and humorous reasons — then getting romantic ideas.

With the entrance of Orangeman Uncle Andy, who also thinks it’s time to save the province with his own brand of straight political talking, we entered lavatorial gag territory. In fact, our row was nearly felled by the neatly lobbed loo rolls.

Although he got a lot of laughs, with the invention of his party, whose acronym was Tool (“Make sure your MP is a Tool”), Uncle Andy was difficult to warm to.

These are Ulster types, all right, but as one theatregoer, Mark (40) commented, “over-acted, a bit under-rehearsed and I didn't relate to them”.

His companion said that was because he'd spent too long in London.

Is it as popular as ever? Well, yes because this is about family.

As one 25-year-old-colleague put it: “I’ve loved their material since my teens. Having grown up in Northern Ireland, never being allowed to mention religion, this was a revelation.

“They talked about the divide and they used the F-word. Great.”

Policeman Billy (Michael McDowell) was the Zeppo Marx figure, the story meandered and yes, the piles jokes were clichéd, but the jabs at our masters hit home as we're about to enter a crucial election.

The evening was a great guide to what you could call a lesser spotted Ulster.

Jane Hardy

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