by David Ireland
Fri 27 Mar – Sun 26 Apr 2020
Presented by the Royal Court Theatre. A Royal Court and Abbey Theatre production.
Film adaptation commissioned by The Space and produced for BBC Four by the Royal Court Theatre. Executive Produced by Lucy Davies, Jane Featherstone, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson.
Running time 1hour and 30 minutes. No interval.
Review Mark Courtice 27th March 2020
Please note producer’s content warning:
Content Warning: Cyprus Avenue contains strong language, discussion of sectarian themes and scenes of extreme violence that some viewers may find disturbing. For this reason, we will be putting a 18+ rating on all direct posts containing the film.
At first the middle aged bloke in the rumpled suit is funny. Soon it’s clear everything’s going wrong; he’s a racist, he’s confused, and he looks at the world through the mad prism of the religious divide in Northern Ireland. David Ireland’s play sees sectarianism as madness but it’s also unafraid to explore how vicious this madness is. Eric’s delusions include the certainty that his granddaughter is Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, but he is sitting in a barely furnished room with a psychiatrist because something awful has happened.
Along with laughter, Ireland finds brutal poetry in a hyper-real version of the perversions of sectarianism that leaves the stage covered in blood, bodies, mud, and misery. Despite sometimes being a bit loud and over – projected for watching from your sofa, the performances are wonderful. Stephen Rae’s Eric is very moving, sad, horrible and believable; and Chris Corrigan is very funny and sinister as the hit man looking forward to breaking his duck. Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo makes psychiatrist Bridget an idiosyncratic voice of reason.
Vicki Featherstone’s production is relentlessly paced – as spare and focussed as Lizzie Clachan’s set. This version (a co-production with the Arts Council’s Space Project) remains essentially a filmed stage performance occasionally (and unnecessarily) opened out when it moves to two locations – a Belfast park and the sinister mural-lined roads of the Protestant enclave. There is also a misjudged point-of-view shot that appears to be just for laughs.
This is not an easy watch because it’s often very violent, and also demanding. Still, it feels great to be in the theatre, even at one remove, at a time when we are missing it so much. It’s a pleasure to sit in front of quality performances, intense writing and thoughtful direction so soon after the total closure of places like the Royal Court.
Bridget Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo
Slim Chris Corrigan
Bernie Andrea Irvine
Julie Amy Molloy
Eric Stephen Rea
Writer David Ireland
Director Vikki Featherstone
Designer Lizzie Clachan
Lighting Designer Paul Keoghan
Sound Designer David McSeveney
British theatre has responded to the coronavirus emergency with great energy and imagination. Many companies are streaming work that has been filmed over the years, and Reviewsgate will try to cover some of the most interesting. Many (as is the case with Cyprus Avenue – review here) we will have reviewed before.