Many months ago, when I read the sparse Royal Court promotional synopsis of this play, to Janie, she said, “surely not?” But I said, “it sounds weird and intriguing, I’d really like to give this one a go”.
Eric Miller, a Belfast loyalist, believes that his new born granddaughter is Gerry Adams.
I was also attracted by the fact that this was to be a joint production with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and that the magnificent Stephen Rea was going to be in it.
Several months later, when (as is often the case) we have both forgotten what we booked and why, Janie asked me again what the play we were due to see that evening was about. I told her. “I can’t believe we booked that,” said Janie. “It was my idea; my bad if it’s no good. But I have a feeling it’s going to be something special”, I replied.
It really is something special.
When we got to the Royal Court, we went to see Simon David in the bookstall to buy our programme and find out what he thinks. Simon is often quite critical and we don’t always agree with him. “It’s marvellous”, said Simon, “I’ve seen it twice and am hoping to sneak in again this evening to see it for a third time.” He did.
When we sat down, the lady sitting next to me said, “you’re in for a treat this evening. I don’t often come back to see a play a second time, but I’ve come back to see this one again. The acting is just marvellous.”
Frankly, I might look at the script to get my head around some of the incredible dialogue again, but having experienced this extraordinary piece as a member of the audience, once is enough. It is unusual and special and a very clever piece; it is superbly acted, provoking laughter, thought and horror in equal measure. But once is enough.
From the very first scene, when Eric (Stephen Rea) calmly asks his psychiatrist, “why are you a nigger?”, through the flashbacks where we learn of Eric’s delusion about his granddaughter and his back story from the troubles, the piece is funny and yet chilling.
Perhaps the funniest scene is the watershed (scene six) which starts as a long soliloquy by Eric and ends as a frantic scene between Eric and Slim, the loyalist paramilitary, played wonderfully by Chris Corrigan. You know you shouldn’t be laughing at the rantings of these crazed extremists, yet there is something inherently funny about them. Heck, my NewsRevue friends and I wrote enough songs and sketches about it back in the day – one example linked here.
When the play pans out to its inevitably horrific conclusion, of course you know that discrimination, extremism, prejudice and terrorism are no jokes. This play/production works the audience’s cognitive dissonance like a maestro conductor with a great orchestra and a fine symphony.
Highly recommended, but (as they used to say on the telly when I was a child) not for people of a nervous disposition.
The play and production has understandably been very well received by the critics: