The 4th Country by Kate Reid. Park Theatre Park 90, Finsbury Park 3***- to 5 February 2022. William Russell

No leprechauns, no River Dances, no Irish stereotypes like shamrocks in this piece about life in Ulster in 2019 which was a big hit at the 2020 Vault Festival and now arrives garlanded with praise at Park 90. It suffers, however, from the Northern Irish accents of the cast who also gabble their lines dreadfully. The result was the for the first two thirds of the play it was almost impossible to make out what was going on for large chunks of the time. That it was interesting, frequently funny was quite clear from the laughter – as so often with press nights there are friends of the cast in the audience who have probably seen it before – from one section of the audience. I am not asking for received English, just clear diction which director Gabriella Bird should have seen to. The evening cried out for subtitles This is not to diminish the skillful performances by the four strong cast in any way. They are very good. Nor is the material, once you grasp just what is going on, to be faulted. We get the problems one couple face in Derry, very movingly an encounter in which we learn of how one pregnant woman is having to bring her dead baby to term because of Northern Ireland’s then law on abortion. Kate Reid has come up with what seems a terrific play which hits its targets. But in fact in the performance I saw missed them. It may have deserved its plaudits at the Vaults but here – do something about delivery. Speak a little more slowly, lighten the brogue. It is not a case of attempting received English in he old fashioned way, just recognising your audience has to understand what you are saying – either that or install surtitles.

Melanie: Kate Reid.
Anna/Shona: Aoife Kennan.
Conor: Cormac Elliott.
Niamh: Rachael Rooney.

Director: Gabriella Bird.
Set * Costume Designer: Jida Akh.
Lighting Designer: Catja Hamilton.
Sound Designer: Hugh Sheehan.
Production Photography: The Other Richard

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