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Sunday Tribune - 28th March 1993

Laughter v. bureaucracy

The God of the Hatchman is the man behind the hatch, faceless and anonymous, in the Community Welfare Office who decides who gets what in terms of benefits and supplements and determines their worth, merits and rights.

Punchbag Theatre's production of Rita Ann Higgins's play, originally a poem, is a self conscious and witty depiction of life in the Community Welfare Office. The bureaucracy of the system is arcane and inhuman, imposing a meritocracy of convoluted and incomprehensible rules whose function is to strip away the humanity of the Welfare applicant. The applicants, different in age, sex and background, spin tales and play out their lives, part fantasy and part biography. Stories of shaggy sheep dips, stream lined roof racks, embezzlement of Chesterfield suites mingle with gossip about illness, marital infidelity and breakup, and sexual fantasies. Word play, insults, puns and songs are let fly. Lives are performed in the anonymity of the Welfare Office against the cruel manipulations of the god of the hatchman.

The mix of self reflexive cinematic and theatrical styles moves between bawdy humour and the darkly menacing; occasionally pacing and tone are uneven as moments of hilarious slapstick and wry observation collide heavily with overly intense pathos. Performances are good (especially Enda Kilroy, Gary McSweeney and Aidan Walsh) and David Quinn's supple
direction allows the extraordinary richness and warmth of Higgins's sparkle.




Rita Ann Higgins


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