Quietly, Omnibus London, 4****: William Russell



By Owen McCaferty.


Omnibus Theatre, Clapham Common North Side, London SW 4 D0W to 27 October 2018.

Tues-Sat 9pm/

Runs 70 mins.

TICKETS: 020 7498 4899.

A powerful play which has lost none of its power.

First staged in 2012 and garlanded with awards this is the first London revival since then and has been put on by the Strange Fish Theatre Company as part of the events to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It works a treat. In a Belfast pub in 2009 Robert, the barman and a Pole, is watching a Poland-Ireland football match. Things are quiet but there is a suggestion there could be trouble on the streets later. His sole customer is Jimmy, a middle aged man there to meet someone. He tells Robert to mind his own business when Ian, the other man, arrives. Ian is greeted with a welcoming head butt, the first of many shocking moments. Then the two men start an edgy conversation in which they circle round just why they are there and what is their purpose.

On 3 July 1974 six men, including Jimmy’s father, were in the pub watching a football match on the television set brought there by his father when a bomb was thrown in by someone from the UVS. It was the 16 year old Ian. The encounter is part of the reconciliation process, of coming to terms with the past and it makes spellbinding listening to. Ian is sorry for what the 16 year old did, but he is that 16 year old no longer. Jimmy tells of what he and his mother saw when they went to the pub, things nobody should see.

James O’Donnell has set it in the Omnibus theatre bar, which gives it a splendid feeling of being there for the audience, directed it splendidly and he gets good performances from his cast. The encounter ends with a handshake and a warning from Jimmy to Ian never to come back to the pub. But Robert, left alone, has to face up to a different violence.

The complexities of Northern Irish politics and the obsession with the past people have are set out in first rate programme notes, not usually the case, helpful to outsiders who can find it all baffling. This is a fine revival of a play worth reviving.

Robert: Matt Dunphy.

Jimmy: Paul Lloyd.

Ian: Nick Danan.

Recorded voices: Claudia Shaw; Laura Douglas; Ruain Conaghan.

Director: James O’Donnell.

Designer: Christopher Butler.

Mural: Jennifer Kelley.

Fight Director: Bret Yount.

Sound Designer: Rachael Murray.

Lighting Designer: Amy Daniels.

Production Photography: Stephanie Claire.


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