I am of Ireland
Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 8th June 2018
“a well-delivered, well-executed play, laced with lovely moments of humour and drama, that is just trying to cover too much”
Set against a complex and rich history, believers and non-believers, ex-IRA and those who moved to England, a series of characters navigate today’s Northern Ireland. The Catholic Church worry about the possible secularisation of schools. Mary has found her vocation and wants to become a nun. Barry stabs a man simply because he is black. Dominic killed three men whilst he was a volunteer with the IRA but now even the police don’t know. Those who have left are resented by those who have stayed.
This is a play about the Troubles, about religion – Catholicism and Protestantism, about race, nationalism, loyalism, terrorism, reconciliation with one’s past. In fact the incredible breadth of this play is one its issues. Seamus Finnegan tries to cover every aspect of this topic, to address and consider every angle, and leave no viewpoint silenced. This is an ambitious task and one that falls short of being achieved. The play’s breadth means we meet a huge range of characters, some of whom are quite similar and seem to serve the same purpose within the narrative. It is also an unrealistic task to ask the audience to emotionally engage with that many characters, meaning certain narratives are a lot more effective than others. Furthermore, to understand the many perspectives, a huge amount of historical knowledge is required and in an admirable bid for accessibility, there is definitely an attempt to provide this all within the play. Unfortunately the reality of this is an overwhelming emphasis on exposition, at points moving closer towards a well delivered history lesson. Finnegan needs to find a personal route into this history in order to discuss in it a way that is engaging onstage, but this is something he only succeeds at doing sporadically.
The cast are consistently strong, adapting from role to role with ease, ensuring each character is distinct without being overdone. Shenagh Govan is particularly standout, bringing strength and a wonderful comic timing to each of her roles. Equally her narrative arch in her role of the mother of someone choosing to become a nun, is deeply moving and beautifully presented, small but sufficient snatches of grief. This is where Finnegan’s writing style does excel – no word is ever wasted, no moment overwritten, the line between showing and telling has been clearly found. Angus Castle-Doughty is also notable, bringing a lovely pace and energy to his characterisations.
This is a well-delivered, well-executed play, laced with lovely moments of humour and drama, that is just trying to cover too much. Streamlining this into a more coherent piece, formally and thematically, would help create a more engaging overall production.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Michael Robinson
I am of Ireland
Old Red Lion Theatre until 30th June
Previously reviewed at this venue