The 4th Country
Crypt – The Vaults
Reviewed – 12th February 2020
“An exceptional piece of work. Ambitious in scope and powerful in achievement”
‘Misunderstood, neglected and under-reported, Northern Ireland is just across the water but feels a million miles away’. These are the opening words on the show information laminate in the Crypt, where this show is staged. Appropriately enough, the Crypt is the Vaults stage that feels the furthest away from the main action, reached, as it is, by walking through a large bar, leaving the building altogether, and re-entering. I wonder whether this was deliberate. It wouldn’t surprise me, as this is a meticulous piece of theatre, with an ambitious script in which every word counts.
Writer Kate Reid has grabbed Northern Ireland by the balls, and is fearless in her intent. She addresses the big issues head on – both past and present – from Bloody Sunday, to the abortion law, to the power vacuum in Stormont, but without sacrificing the intimate personal truths which make all great drama lift from the page. Her characters live and breathe, and we care what happens to them. This is in no small part down to the skill of the acting ensemble. Kate Reid acts in the show too, joined by Aoife Kennan, Cormac Ellliot and Rachel Rooney, and there is not a weak link in the chain. This is performing of the highest quality – skilled, muscular, nuanced – and transports the audience into the various worlds of the play on the flip of a coin; all the more skilful when the scenes are presented within a meta-structure which lays the show’s theatricality bare. And what a joy to watch a piece of theatre in which this meta-structure has real purpose, and so brilliantly serves the content!
Gabriella Bird’s direction is perfect in this regard and could so easily be overlooked. It too seamlessly serves the narrative, allowing the actors to move freely through the space in such a way that the audience is continually stimulated but never distracted. This takes a great deal of skill. West End practitioners take note! There was no Sound Designer listed to credit, but the subtle sound design added to the whole, as did Catja Hamilton’s unobtrusive lighting.
The 4th Country is an exceptional piece of work. Ambitious in scope and powerful in achievement. As the two women who left the Crypt in tears last night would testify.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw