I Am of Ireland by Seamus Finnegan
Old Red Lion (short walk from Angel tube station) until June 30th
Runs 2 hr 15 minutes including a 15 minute interval
Veronica Stein, 14th June, 2018
Many facets of a complex nation
Mary wants to become a nun. Barry and Derek want their country back. Dominic wants to come clean. Only a few of the many faces we meet in Seamus Finnegan’s I Am of Ireland, the four contribute to a cross section of the Emerald Isle in an examination of the turbulence of its past and the murkiness of its future.
Standouts in this ‘State of the Nation’ play include Angus Castle-Doughty whose turns as racist terrorists Barry and Derek are sickeningly charismatic, along with Shenagh Govan who slips between a strict Catholic school teacher, a concerned mother and a cool detective with ease and strength. Sean Stewart’s quiet confidence parallels Richard Fish’s more brutal work in their several confrontations. Jerome Ngonadi’s Montserratian priest who receives a violent welcome to Ireland delivers the moving moments of the play, and Euan Macnaughton makes good work of the many monologues he is tasked with delivering.
The aforementioned monologues are unfortunately where I Am of Ireland could use some work, for while the story is by no means simple, the text itself deserves some simplification. Finnegan’s dialogue is skillful and while the words are evocative, the structure of the piece lends itself to confusion- it seems we are to experience a series of interconnected stories, several monologues support this, and yet there are several that are disparate. The scenes are so strong that it appears the monologues would have an amazing second life as scenes themselves, for in their solo form they tend to drag. Ken McClymont can afford to tighten up the transitions (blackouts rule the day between the formidable number of scenes) but there are moments of absolute excellence, especially when the entire cast is involved.
Seamus Finnegan has mostly succeeded in the Herculean task of presenting Ireland in its many contradictions as well as its glory. Though structural issues muddy the viewing experience, I Am of Ireland is a feat of playwriting with many worthwhile performances.
Barry/Derek: Angus Castle-Doughty
Bishop/Harry/Sammy Nelson: Richard Fish
Theresa/Mrs. Fitzpatrick/Detective Magee: Shenagh Govan
Joseph/Dominic: Euan Macnaughton
Father Flanagan/Mother Superior: Jerome Ngonadi
Mary/Peta/Nurse Burns/ Jacinta: Saria Steel
Father Adams/Sean/ N.I. Detective/Sgt. O’ Hare: Sean Stewart
Director: Ken McClymont
Designer: Mike Leopold
Lighting Designer: Luke M. Francis
Photo by Michael Robinson