5 -30 June, 2018
by Seamus Finnegan
Directed by Ken McClymont
As I enter The Red Lions Pub Theatre on a busy Friday evening ready to watch the exciting new play ‘I AM OF IRELAND’ by Seamus Finnegan, I realise I have little knowledge of the history of the Troubles in Ireland. But, I’m telling you now, I was certainly about to be told.
The dimly lit black box theatre was creatively designed with rope, chairs, paintings and wooden crosses all hanging (as though frozen in the middle of an earthquake) against two walls; a busy backdrop to the large wooden square outlining the stage. Music was playing, not particularly emotional, just light hearted and (of course) Irish related. The show began with the patriotic song Ireland’s Call sung acapella as the cast filtered into the space one by one, dressed (some of them comically) as well known Irish stereotypes. All singing with equal enthusiasm. The atmosphere created was one of unity and pride, you couldn’t help but smile and wish you knew the words to sing along.
The beginning certainly transported us to Ireland and gave us an insight into the contemporary issues (and well, the play carried on to give us a lot more than just an insight). Not long into Act 1 I began to feel overwhelmed with information, as though I was sitting through the last revision session before an exam and trying to cram in as much as possible. About racism, the Troubles, faith and religion (both Protestantism and Catholicism), the IRA, the loyalists and the ex-patriots (and everything in between it seemed). These were obviously topics which Finnegan has a rooted passion for (and rightly so), however the ambitious dream to address them all equally and theatrically; all of these character’s each with a story to tell, involved in all of these topics, and giving us all of this information at once… it was just overbearing, and instead of keeping us in this Irish bubble it gradually alienated the audience.
Although the context was jam packed, Finnegan’s writing is exceptional in bringing out the understated truthful emotion of the characters. It was the perfect cast; all of them effortlessly changing between roles and displaying each character with integrity, humour and understanding. The likeable Euan Macnaughton, with his honest blue eyes and rich Irish tone told many a story through (lengthy, yet well executed) monologues. Shenagh Goven was a force to be reckoned with, her powerful voice and strong demeanour (and not to mention her brilliant comic timing). Every time she entered she brought the stage alive.
‘I AM OF IRELAND’ was full of short snappy scene’s which were cleverly directed by the capable Ken McClymont. The overload of information is forgivable due to the believable cast and enjoyable, relevant soundtrack. I certainly left that warm little pub with an education, and grateful I witnessed such talent.
Review by Lauren Russell