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Theatre Reviews A sharply written and beautifully performed piece of drama

SIMON PARSONS recommends an innovatory production that addresses the tragedies of Northern Ireland’s recent history

The 4th Country
Park Theatre

 

THE group behind this little gem of a production, Plain Heroines, are a female-led company whose mission statement is to make funny plays about difficult subjects and this production does exactly that.

Set in Northern Ireland, the play explores how the tragedies of their recent history, still haunting the present, can be dramatised honestly and effectively and specifically how a play can do justice to the Bloody Sunday victims and their relatives and those who suffered under Northern Ireland’s rigidly cruel abortion laws.

The writer and actress Kate Reid has structured the piece around four interconnected lives and the actors who are trying to play those parts. Stylistically, she uses a light touch and metatheatre to spotlight historic grievances. Out-of-role discussions on alternate structures and approaches to the drama punctuate a largely naturalistic narrative of a family struggling to escape the shadows of the past.

Gabriella Bird’s taut direction allows the talented cast to shine as they explore their roles and how the inevitably tragic drama can unfold on stage. Pathos and humour sit side by side as two controversial issues collide in 2019 during the suspension of the Stormont Assembly.

Aoife Kennan plays an English lawyer, defending an ex-soldier indicted for the shootings in Derry during the Troubles while her Irish fiancée, played by Cormac Elliot, is torn between personal feelings and family loyalties. Rachel Rooney is his high-strung sister moulded and destroyed by the world she has been born into.

The opening scene of civil servants coping with the fallout from past events has striking contemporary relevance and effectively frames the drama as a series of flashbacks while the direct address to the audience chosen to end the play is stirringly simple and effectively sits outside the traditional dramatic framing structure.

This is a sharply written, beautifully performed and entertaining piece of drama that has successfully built on a shorter production two years ago and is well worth catching during its run at the Park Theatre.

Runs until February 5 2022, box-office: parktheatre.co.uk

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