OVER THE BRIDGE
by Sam Thompson.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 14 May 2013.
Sun-Mon 7.30pm Tue 2pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 October.
It’s another world, but a work-play written from experience still works.
This must be the first time a ‘minority’ Finborough show, running Sundays to Tuesdays, has had a set more complex than its ‘major’ partner, with designer Philip Lindley’s recreation of a 1950s office. There again, rock musical Rooms has a company of six (including four musicians) while Sam Thompson’s play demands a prodigal thirteen.
A painter at Harland and Wolff’s Belfast shipyard, and active trade unionist, Thompson died in 1965, just short of 50. This 1960 play, unsurprisingly about a shipyard and union tensions, caused ructions when Ulster Group Theatre management pulled the premiere. It has technical limits, but speaks strongly from experience.
Set in the full employment 1950s, many characters remember the Depressed thirties, when the foreman hired daily at will. Nowadays, union cooperation’s needed for work to proceed. The union rules lives too; expulsion or resignation means being sacked from your job – no small threat when there’s only one major employer around.
And in Belfast there is religion. Billy Morgan’s conversion means he wishes to leave the union. George Mitchell’s expelled after lapping-up excessive overtime to the cost of fellow-workers. For both men it means their job will go, for if management don’t sack them, there’ll be a mass walk-out.
There’s also the tribal religion which means a suspected IRA bomb mean the ‘Prods’ telling Catholic workers to stay at home. In this city it’s hard to know if allegations about Peter O’Boyle’s IRA links are truth or rumour.
Kevin Murphy shows Peter’s unyielding determination to work, despite a menacing mob. Thompson’s hero, Davy Mitchell – Robert Calvert showing his rock-like determination and troubled courage – supports him. Davy, who has suffered blacklisting for his union commitment, is the only man to see beyond self-interest and venality.
Women remain in a ghetto of reaction and grief in this world, which Emma Faulkner’s production revives for the first time in over fifty years. Some elements were, at this preview, stronger than others, but the production successfully shows a society where social tensions are interleaved with mixed human motives, building towards the explosive ‘Troubles’ into which the following decade finally collapsed.
Rabbie White: Sean O’Callaghan.
Warren Baxter: Chris Robinson.
Mr Fox: Alan Mooney.
George Mitchell: Michael Neilson.
Ephraim Smart: Drew Dillon.
Billy Morgan: Nick Danan.
Archie Kerr: Caolan Byrne.
Davy Mitchell: Robert Calvert.
Peter O’Boyle: Kevin Murphy.
Marian Mitchell: Amy Molloy.
Martha White: Melanie McHugh.
Nell Mitchell: Caitriona Hinds.
Mob Leader: Lawrence McGrandles Jnr.
Director: Emma Faulkner.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Elliott Griggs.
Sound: Tom Meehan.
Costume: Emily Stuart.