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Bailout blues

My review of David McWilliams’ outsiders, first published in the Sunday Business Post.  And below, yet another economist on why the bailout won’t work.

05 December 2010 Reviewed by Rachel Andrews


By David McWilliams

Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork On national tour until Dec 16

Rating: ***

David McWilliams has built a career upon distilling tedious economic information into both plain English and entertainment.

He has already proved himself – through books, lectures and TV appearances – to be a superb communicator.

But while his charisma might not be obvious on television, it is crystal clear in this live, one-man show.

As soon as he bounds on stage (on the night the grisly details of the IMF bailout have been announced), younger and slimmer than he appears on television, brimming with energy and, despite the dismal news, hope – it is clear why the Abbey theatre felt he could hold together a 70-minute show that attempts to put into context the tumultuous events of the past two years.

In order to do so, the show draws upon McWilliams’ previous work. Caricatures, such as the infamous ‘Breakfast Roll Man’, make an appearance, to remind us that people from all walks of life were buying and selling property during the boom.

He also discusses the potential impact on the economy of harnessing the Irish diaspora, the premise upon which his second publication, The Generation Game, is based.

But the primary argument here comes out of his most recent book, Follow the Money, in which he considers the theory that Irish society is divided between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’.

The insiders are the politicians, bankers, builders and developers, but also members of the professions; all of which have a vested interest in seeing the system put back exactly as it was before the bust.

‘‘The insiders have got away with it,” he tells us, ‘‘and given us the bill.”

Made against the backdrop of carefully chosen images – such as that of Bertie Ahern standing knee high in floodwater, and the ominously rising number clock of Irish debt – the arguments are compelling.

As in the past, the Sunday Business Post columnist shows his knack for coming up with memorable metaphors by using the analogy of the ‘Good Room’, a room no self-respecting granny would have been without when he was growing up, to explain why Irish politicians and civil servants appear terrified to lose face in front of European bureaucrats.

‘‘We need to stand up for ourselves,” he tells his audience, as he advocates ideas such as a ‘‘debt for equity swap’’ and, ultimately, the nuclear option of default.

Although the piece is directed by the experienced Conall Morrison, it is, in truth, more performed lecture than theatre. But that doesn’t matter to a full house on a wintry night.

This, if nothing else, proves that McWilliams is saying something that people are ready to hear.

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