The border poll goes mainstream in Grimes and McKee's New Ireland


Grimes & McKee's New Ireland

Lyric Theatre

Until June 11

GRIMES and McKee’s New Ireland show, which has taken over the Lyric Theatre’s Naughton Studio stage, is a reworking of the old gag about the guy walking into Kelly’s Cellars at some point in the future.

Prices have gone up on his Guinness which now costs 10 punts or, as we’d say now, Euros.

Duh, united Ireland. It’s political satire, something that’s having a bit of a moment right now with Vote DLA also on next week at the Grand Opera House.

The performers imagine a future marriage between south and north on our island. "Straight in without a kiss," as Grimes’s civil servant naughtily puts it.

After a slightly long preamble – a kind of Yes, Minister with politicians planning this brave new world with much misunderstanding – they head to familiar, enjoyable Grimes and McKee territory.

There is the folk duo routine, with droll orders to Hugh, or Wheesh, in both languages. There is the daytime programme on the Orangefest presented by recurring presenters Caitriona (Alan McKee in a great wig and false smile) and dour Glen (Conor Grimes).

Their TV duo – a reworking of more or less any anodyne presenter coupling you care to name, although maybe not Willoughby and Schofield – pop up here and there.

Most memorably Caitriona hosts a skit involving that staple, the invited daytime chef. One super sharp exchange arrived as Grimes’s cook, outlining a traditional picnic with sandwiches, patronisingly tells Caitriona there must be food: "Otherwise it’s just sitting on a blanket."

Another cracking sketch involved two Nordies heading for the shoplifting outing to Dublin. They had fun with Irish history, referring to the famous Daniel O’Connell Street named for the revolutionary and country and western singer whose statue is handily nearby.

And why does the famous post office still have bullet holes when in Belfast, bombed out buildings were repaired the next day? Because, as our commentator says proudly, of the famed Protestant work ethic...

It’s a little hit and miss. I’m not sure the search for a national dog sketch worked nor the attempted Swiftian death sentence sequence which posited a community execution hub as a source of new employment and great days out.

But the reworking of the hilarious Alistairs sketch certainly did. There was nostalgia for the old crossing the border passport practical joke with one poor Alistair so taken in he spent the whole journey in the train’s toilet.

The fact that Grimes and McKee are using this material is of course significant. It means the notion of a border poll and referendum is now mainstream, in the national consciousness.

At one point, the guys intimate the new Scottish republic might get in the way. The Ulster Scots language, one of three now required, certainly does in Conor Grimes’s hands.

It’s thought provoking, with discussions of what sort of new flag we might get, also the problems over finance and pretty much everything involved in this new relationship.

Happily, they got somewhere with a song, having rejected Danny Boy and hybrid ditties with Irish lyrics sung to the music of the British national anthem.

The ending’s upbeat. Rocking all over the world, anyone?

New Ireland runs at the Lyric Theatre until June 11 (lyric.co.uk, 028 9038 1081)