One Night In Istanbul @ Grand Canal Theatre Reviewed

Posted on June 12, 2010

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Sports fans can be scary people. I should know, I am one. But at Grand Canal Theatre last week, I was privy to a very different theatrical experience in Nicky Allt’s Liverpool soccer tribute, One Night In Istanbul.

The foyer is filled with Liverpool jerseys on entry. It feels like I’m in Belfast or Rosslare port, waiting for a boat to some sporting event across the water. The venue has that air of anticipation; as if we were sitting down to view the 2005 Champion’s League Final for the first time.

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And in essence, that is what we’re doing, after all, the bits between the lines (football) are new to us. One Night In Istanbul tells of 4 Liverpool fans’ escapades in Istanbul in the days leading up to the 2005 Final. Interspersed with random characters, a Sky Sports news reporter who ‘loosens up’ during his introducing jingle; a denim-clad scouse guitarist with a penchant for reworking America songs and the random coming and going Liverpool characters we meet during the 90 minute comedy romp.

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With a plot slotting in somewhere between Lock, Stock and The Brady Bunch, Tom, Gerry and sons find themselves in a Turkish hotel room where they discover a bag of money in their infuriatingly loud air conditioning unit. Tom takes it upon himself to try charming the Turkish chambermaid; Gerry shows off some dodgy choices in clothing while sons Jamie and Joseph find themselves on the hunt for tickets.

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Amidst all of this, the use of two screens on either side of the stage play back memories of past European Cup glory for the club and we are treated to anecdotes from the two elders of the group about their exploits at these games.

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One Night In Istanbul is a labour of love. This is the only way to describe it because its execution is no more like a play than Paradise Lost is a sonnet. It’s like variety show meets comedy and then hooks up nuthouse outing to the zoo. And it’s remarkably good fun.

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I am not a soccer fan but I do remember watching the final in 2005 and getting completely engrossed in it and that’s what ONII does. It pulls an audience back into that match again and the use of the screens is perfect throughout. Evidently the audience I was a part of thought so too because during the play there were cheers for the Liverpool goals.

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If, however, there was one thing I have to mention, it’s that the accents did escape me sometimes, John McArdle in particular was difficult to understand at points as a good many of his lines were delivered lightning quick and it takes a while to pick up on the accent. I would like to have gotten a copy of the script in order to appreciate fully the comedy.

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Sports plays are something that are becoming more frequent. In Ireland we’ve seen the likes of I, Keano and MacBecks, not to mention the gem of the lot, John Breen’s Alone It Stands. Speaking to Nicky Allt a few weeks ago, he remarked that sports play were a way to entice people to come to the theatre and he certainly seems to have done the business with ONII.

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It’s very easy to see how this play could become the biggest selling show in the Liverpool Empire – it’s like the best tribute act you could hope to have for a sports team, a party from start to finish.

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All in all, One Night In Istanubul is perhaps more panto than play, but yet a thoroughly enjoyable night of entertainment. It almost made me want to be a soccer fan.

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Words: Anna Hayes

Read my interview with writer Nicky Allt and actor Tony Caveney here: http://totallydublin.ie/culture-item-theatre-one-night-in-istanbul-1223.html

Posted in: Reviews