Saturday 10 December 2016

A singing wall that has serious points to make

Shibboleth Peacock Theatre Review: sophie gorman

Published 10/10/2015 | 07:00

'Shibboleth', in case you didn't know, is a custom or belief distinguishing a particular group, especially a long-standing one regarded now as obsolete. Stacey Gregg's new play, set in the Belfast of today, is certainly full of shibboleths. We Irish are doggedly determined to hold on to our traditions, even the most useless ones.

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This opens with Barack Obama's impassioned 2013 speech urging the walls to come down. But the walls, or "interface barriers", aren't coming down, they're still building new peace walls and one particular new wall takes on a life of its own.

A tightly knit team of construction workers are all on the same side of the wall they're building, politically and literally. Casual violence is part of their banter, but it doesn't feel so casual to newcomers such as Polish immigrant Uri, who joins their crew, and his teenage daughter Agnieszka.

They use the language of change, talk about transitioning to a post-conflict economy, celebrate the fact that you can now get a latté in Belfast. But the divide between classes is clearly not diminishing, and those at the bottom are still fighting to pay the mortgage.

This is a play with so much creativity - too much; it has a singing wall as a central character. But it is a play that wants to make some serious points about the North today. What can young men do now with all the pent-up adrenalin and aggression?

'Shibboleth' realises the weighty issues it is tackling and is not afraid to challenge or even mock itself for attempting them. It knows better than to try to provide a simple solution, or a happy ever after.

Irish Independent

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