Mosley Must Fall
Lion and Unicorn Theatre
Reviewed – 22nd February 2018
“the low-key performances fail to engage the audience emotionally”
Set during the social upheaval of 1936, Martin McNamara’s new play “Mosley Must Fall” integrates the prevailing social conflicts, placing them compactly under the roof of the McEnroe family. As Mosley and his fascist supporters prepare to march through the Jewish and Irish quarters of East London, Dublin Easter Rising veteran, Liam, tries to convince his sons of the futility of fighting for a cause. But youth sees life differently and each son has his own convictions and predicaments.
Green Curtain Theatre presents this year’s Festival of New London Irish Plays under the title ‘Against the Odds’, this being one of their three works. The script is enlightening and absorbing but the production sometimes lacks direction and with it, a lapse of theatrical contrasts and pace. Aonghus Weber and Fiona Cuskelly give reserved performances as the disillusioned parents, Liam and Maureen, and fail to transmit their deep-rooted worries and anger. Mickey Mason, as their son Jim, adds strength to the scenes with more nuanced acting but is often let down by a want of dramatic response. The unabashed Bernard Duffy (Kevin Bohan), at the risk of occasionally bordering on clownish, lightens the tone and Lisa Lynn plays a confident yet accepting Ruth Cohen, adding another thread to the tapestry of the story. The most powerful moment comes from Michael Black as son Dessie when a final outburst breaks through his cool demeanour.
The spartan set and bleakness of the lighting help to emphasise the frugal lives people were living and this is brought to light by references to food and meals and the recognition of the desperate, scrounging neighbour. Nevertheless, the scene changes could be slicker to avoid the on-stage congestion.
In “Mosley Must Fall” the McEnroe family represents the fractured society, torn by roots, loyalty, generations … This was a time when people lived side by side and helped those in need, but were agonising over ingrained beliefs. However, the low-key performances fail to engage the audience emotionally and, subsequently, create an imbalance in the play’s message. The most striking speech is made in defence of Mosley which, despite the support he gained in London’s East End, is probably not the intended moral focal point. By intensifying the energy and dynamic interpretation of the characters, their conflicts would come across more powerfully on stage. As it stands, it inclines to the more intimate nature of radio – a medium McNamara is very experienced in.
This is a restrained production of a fascinating period in this country’s history with a well-crafted script which reminds us of the many strands which lead to and from Mosley’s instigation of the British Union of Fascists and the parallels past and present. There are some spirited and touching moments, but the tension of the family’s predicament is simplistically handled and expressed.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Mosley Must Fall
Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 3rd March
Part of Against The Odds:
Festival Of New ‘London Irish’ Plays