Friday 23 March 2018

Poor credibility just one of play's troubles

The Big Fellah The Gaiety Theatre John McKeown

FOR something that skips through the years like a sharp flat stone, there's a static quality to much of this Out of Joint/Lyric Hammersmith production of Richard Bean's comedy-drama about the Troubles.

There are no scene changes as such. Significant years are flashed up -- 1972, 1981, 1987 -- accompanied by appropriate bursts of pop music. And we never leave the Bronx apartment of Irish-American fireman Michael Doyle (David Ricardo-Pearce), which is a 'safe house' for the Big Fellah (Finbar Lynch) and his group of IRA arms suppliers.

It's also dogged by a lack of credibility. Ricardo-Pearce's performance reeks of the Home Counties, rather than Big Apple brawn, while the Big Fellah himself is too physically slight to support his Michael Collins-style sobriquet.

But there are serious compensations in the shape of Ruairi (Luke Griffin), the charmingly sceptical Corkman in exile, and Tom Billy (Youssef Kerkour), the big, lumbering reactionary New York cop.

The Big Fellah himself becomes more substantial as the personal cost of three decades of dedication to a 'just war' becomes apparent.

Bean's play is commendably non-partisan. But there are judgments. Like the muslim terrorists he condemns, the Big Fellah is losing his humanity.

And as it leads up to 9/ll we see a continuum of violence and the irony of Michael the fireman, now an experienced killer, going to work on that fatal morning.

Irish Independent

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