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ANYONE interested in Ireland’s republican movement should see the English premiere of this play by the late Joseph Crilly.
Set in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, it centres around newly released IRA man Fra Maline. A reception has been arranged for the ex-prisoner in a rundown hall on the outskirts of the village of McQuillan’s Hill in rural mid-Ulster and, while we never see the party itself, we’re treated to some excellent scenes devoted to its build-up and aftermath.
Maline’s nearest and dearest have been invited, including his supposed daughter Theresa and, as she helps clean up after her father’s welcome home party, we meet his sister Loretta. Newly returned to Ireland, she’s secretly bought the hall and employed her old lover Ray McCullion to give it a quick paint-over.
Theresa – adorable but naive – is seduced by the much older and worldly wise McCullion and into this melee steps IRA man Dessie Rigg who, we soon discover, has been Maline’s long-term and secret gay lover.
As the play progresses, all the tensions of these relationships come to a head, leading to a dramatic and sometimes highly comic conclusion.
That typifies what’s a moving play, with some great dialogue. But, for the purist, it may pose a problem in that it doesn’t portray republicans in a shining light. It presents them, warts and all, as damaged human beings.
It is all the better for that in a production that’s enhanced by an exceptionally strong cast. Under Jonathan Harden’s direction, they deliver a real gem.
Runs until February 29, box office: finboroughtheatre.co.uk
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