CHRONICLES OF LONG KESH
by Martin Lynch.
Tricycle Theatre 269 Kilburn High Road NW6 7JR To 17 April 2010.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 4pm & 24 March, 7 April 2pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7328 1000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 March.
Oh! What A Lovely Prison.
Grass now grows in the long field, says the programme for Green Shoot’s run at the Tricycle. ‘Long Kesh’ comes from the Gaelic for ‘long field’, yet despite the green shoots reclaiming the site near Mazetown (aka ‘the Maze’) there remains a single H-shaped block to recall the prison where thousands of Irish, Republican and Loyalist, spent time for terrorist activities, actual or assumed (Toot here loudly insists on his innocence while simultaneously proclaiming his Republican solidarity) between 1971 and 2000.
It’s here Martin Lynch’s play shows Freddie trying to earn his living as a warder. He has no agenda; it was a toss of a coin whether he joined police or prison service – two sure jobs in Northern Ireland at the time. Billy Clarke’s Freddie, head held up in near-permanent questioning, seeking reason in others, is far removed from the vicious thug element among the prison staff, as embodied by Marc O’Shea in contrast to his ever-willing eternal follower Toot.
Lynch shows how politics shapes lives; men who start out just wanting to live with their family become committed activists. Each has his individuality. When it comes to volunteering for a hunger strike, there are those who know they’ll never do it, and others who think about it but realise they’ll lack the resolve. Like Chris Corrigan’s Eamonn, with his considered way in talking to others.
Lisa May and Lynch himself provide a physically inventive, barely-staged production – just a few neutral rostra, at times used for percussive rhythms. And there’s comedy – not superimposed, but arising from the men’s lives and reactions, enhanced by the only female actor, Jo Donnelly, machoing up in body language and assertive voice.
And it’s quite a musical, in its way. Apart from switching between main and minor roles, these actors produce a strong a cappella sound when required. They may march on and off militarily at either end of the show, but they never forget the triumph of local singer made good Smokey Robinson. In this review of Northern Ireland: The Long Kesh Years these caged birds can be quite a chorale.
Freddie: Billy Clarke.
Eamonn: Chris Corrigan.
Thumper: Jo Donnelly.
Oscar: Marty Maguire.
Hank: Andy Moore.
Toot: Marc O’Shea.
Directors: Lisa May, Martin Lynch.
Designer/Costume: David Craig.
Lighting: Conleth White.
Musical Director: Paul Boyd.
Fight director: Paul Burke.