The Trench That Stretched From Dublin Town away to The Western Front

To Have To Shoot Irish Men

Walker Theatre

1st November 2018

Well what a mixed bag we have with this show, contrasting styles, conventions and design all went to give slightly less than one initially imagined. This Almanac Arts production of Lizzie Nunnery’s To Have To Shoot Irishmen, has taken hold of a period of Irish History, the Easter uprising of 1916 and contrasted and scrutinised the effect that violence had not just in Ireland but on the global stage all so. The Irish theatres of war are a minefield to wander in and it takes pluck and courage to get hold of a subject and illuminate it all from another point of view. Why only twenty five years ago Gerry Adams and Martin Mc.Guinness were not allowed to be heard on British TV and now we as a fairly intellectual audience are hearing from the views of the Sinn Fein which in truth have always been there.

However Ms. Nunnery has taken it on and the overbearing message was no to violence. Retrospectively we can do nothing however to alter the course of this river of history but it is imperative that the story should be taught and taught properly. Not from English text books written by winners, but from the valuable wealth of Irish history of subjugation, sorrow and suffering.

So how did it all shape up? The four cast members three men and one lady (Why no programmes one wonders?) brought the stage to life with an array of characters. All could play and sing and lacing the song in with the episodic narratives was a wonderfully observed Brechtian device and the two styles added gravitas and kudos to what was being told. But..

Although this is some of the finest acting one may have ever witnessed in Walker Theatre, the immersion into character and the changes were seamless. So beautifully acted ,it is only every now and again incredibly talented people get together and something quite unique is born.

However, this piece sadly lacked pace, employing Pinteresque pauses one might be forgiven thinking that lines had been forgotten, they hadn’t it was just another theatrical device being employed. However one never knew why Pinter did it and one is never sure why others still do.

One believes with this piece that the shade was all grey, when they maybe could have broken the tension with just something a little lighter. No one in that theatre tonight could be blamed for the Troubles. No one in that theatre tonight was responsible for the Black and Tans or the IRA, no one, everyone was interested but to  batter them over the head with angry Irish folk might be slightly counterproductive.

Now this naturally raises the interesting discussion one could have about the theatre of Augustus Boal the Brazilian that brought us Forum Theatre and Agitprop style of theatre both demanding action from the audience. This issue is maybe slightly too old to count anyone accountable and the agitation and the propagation is fine to a degree but this play is angry from beginning to end.

The set was designed to represent the battered girders of the GPO, a wrecked Irish home and a prison cell. The action flowed between the set well, but was the set making too much work for the team? Was it necessary? Maybe not it sometimes confused the issue.

Lizzie Nunnery is certainly not afraid of the big issues and one thinks that is wonderful. One can be certain she will be back with something else as poignant and cutting. She is a name that belongs in the hall of contemporary Playwrights. Much deserved.

I did wonder if they were using an Artaudian device from the Theatre of Cruelty as for a brief moment feedback came over the sound desk and the noise it made was piercing and called for action..fingers in ears. Was it a theatre of cruelty device? One will never know but they could leave it out for this humble reviewer.

As I promised you a mixed bag of a review. The thing that of course makes a show is what the actors can do on the day. They were so good, one felt their pain. Maybe just a smaller amount of pain and a little more relief might have worked well. But I as ever implore to pop along tomorrow night at Eight O’Clock and see if you agree. A lovely connected array of  theatrical styles to tell the story that I concede we all should know.

This is a Four Star Review.

Owen J.Lewis

 

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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