Theatre Review: The Irish Play

The Irish Play written by Tim McGillicuddy and brilliantly directed by Denis Haugh was performed at Nun’s Island Theatre. First performed in the Irish Arts Centre in New York in sold out run, JokerThief theatre company have brought it home to Galway.

The Irish play transports the audience back into the world of 1975 Ireland through the dated costumes (McLaughlin) and décor of the small apartment (Browne). Although set in Dublin, the violence of the Troubles up north hangs in the air as clear as the tricolour hanging on stage.

Liam (Oisin Linnane) an IRA supporter and Republican who believes in a United Ireland is celebrating his 25th birthday with Jameson and friends. The party includes Liam’s English girlfriend Suzy, Liam’s housemate Cian (Shane Gaffney) an American who is an aspiring Irish writer and Cian’s pregnant girlfriend Nora (Niamh Ryan). Liam struggles with his own identity and morals regarding his love for his country and the inevitable violence that goes hand in hand with wanting a united Ireland. The four friends contemplate their future and their own identity in this uplifting comedy, yet each person on stage represents what it is to be Irish but through a different lens. Ultimately, connected through suffering and whiskey.  

The Irish Play portrays the struggles of being Irish and it is as current in today’s world as it was in 1975. Issues such as abortion and the stigma attached to unwed mother’s while has greatly improved from 1975, it is a stark reminder of the unlimited options that were available to Irish women up until very recently.  Also, the question of identity and being Irish is as relevant today if not more so with Ireland’s growing community of first generation Irish and our mass number of young people emigrating. This leads to the question of what is a nationality defined by? Is it simply being born in Ireland? Having Irish parents? Being reared in Ireland? Being Catholic? Having Irish characteristics? If we look at some of our most famous Irish writers’ past and present, what characterises them as Irish is undefined. Martin McDonagh for instance, is an acclaimed Irish writer yet, there is those that argue he is British due to his birthplace and not writing style and heritage.  

The Irish Play is an unveiling of what it is to be Irish and it is as stereotypical and unfamiliar as it is ugly and beautiful. This dark comedy succeeds in making the Irish in the audience laugh at themselves while simultaneously feeling sorry for themselves and the question of identity is never fully answered. As the saying goes it is not simply black and white or in this case “Green and Orange”

Review by Grace Byrne

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