Alone it Stands

Previewed 27 December 2001, Opened 2 January 2002, Closed 9 February 2002 at the Duchess Theatre in London

John Breen's award-winning Irish comedy Alone it Stands in London for a strictly limited run of 50 performances only

The day the underdog bit back! - In 1978 the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team toured Ireland. They had already demolished national and regional sides from all over the British Isles and seemed unbeatable. On 31 October 1978 they met Munster, a provincial outfit made up of players from clubs in the West and south. The All Blacks looked set to add another annihilation to their perfect record, but as legend would have it, the unthinkable happened. Not only did Munster defeat the All Blacks, the latter did not even score.

A cast of six actors play 60 characters in order to tell the story of the Munter's historic win in this funny and energetically mounted homage to that frozen moment in folk history.

The cast features Garrett Lombard, Malcolm Adams, Gerry McCann, Niamh McGrath, Paul Meade and Dessie Gallagher. Directed by John Breen with designs by Jack Kirwan and lighting by James McFetridge.

"John Breen's Alone It Stands, now in the West End after wowing his native Ireland, manages to appeal to both rugby refuseniks and ruggerbuggers... There's something universally heartwarming about seeing the game's biggest bruisers being given a taste of their own medicine. That is the simple, unintellectual thrill on offer here. But Breen, who also directs, has been astute enough to make this an evening of jokey, self-deprecating theatricality that doesn't crow too loudly at the unexpected triumph... Using a strenuously physical, 'poor theatre' approach reminiscent of the Belfast-born hit Stones In His Pockets, a cast of six tackle all the roles on a bare stage. Although only hazily rendering the personalities involved (and, scandalously, the programme notes don't supply a roll-call of both teams), this free-for-all style creates a fast-paced comedy of bold contrasts." The Daily Telegraph

"John Breen's play, which opened this week in London, having toured rugby clubs, parish halls and prisons for a couple of years, dramatises the day in 1978 when Munster, a provincial Irish team, beat the All Blacks, the seriously beefy, scary New Zealand team who begin each match with the Haka, a bloodcurdling chant-and-stomp in Maori, and play like warriors. People may call rugby a game but on the day it's more like war, in which the lads are out there fighting for their country. If, in Limerick, they regard it as a religion, it's probably because this miraculous triumph seemed to be proof that God is an Irishman. Imagine Stones In His Pockets meets John Godber's Up'N'Under and you've captured much of the flavour of this piece: intensely physical, shoestring theatre - funny, fresh, fast-moving and wholly unpretentious. A cast of six - five men and a woman in games kit - play all the parts, both teams and numerous other mildly caricatured characters, including the commentator, supporters, even the disapproving midwife looking after Mary, a player's wife who goes into labour with twins just as the game kicks off. There's some lovely juxtaposition as she pushes and pants in the hospital while the lads push and grunt in the scrum. Finally, the joy of birth and triumph is punctured when a player, Donal, hears that his father, who played for Dublin, has had a fatal heart attack... A neat and entertaining try." The Mail on Sunday

"In an amiable series of droll sketches, tribute is paid to the day in 1978 when a rugby team from Munster played the apparently invincible All Blacks and beat them 12-0. Since the result was considered a foregone conclusion, no television cameras recorded the event, which gives the show's reconstructions a point, though not an edge. This is a sort of mobile fanzine, which mixes speculation about the game - was there a tactical fart in the scrum? - with human-interest bereavement and birth stories, and cameos of Limerick life... Against a luminous cloudscape, a gifted cast of six - brimful of winking Irish charm - engage in a series of balletic impersonations, playing, without help of props or costume changes, huge All Blacks and their smaller, stunned opponents, fans and families, kids and gentry, the Bunratty Medieval Singers and an over-eager salivating dog. It's the swift changes that beguile, the way one act flows liquidly into another. A scrum - drilled to use 'bite, boot and bollocks' - shuffles around only slightly to become the bed on which a woman writhes in labour. The grunts of childbirth and goal-scoring alternate until a result is achieved: one large head thrusts its way up among the thresh of limbs and a manly face collapses like a baby's... It's not enough to convert a rugby unbeliever, but it's more than a good try." The Observer

Alone it Stands in London at the Duchess Theatre previewed from 27 December 2001, opened on 2 January 2002 and closed on 9 February 2002