BWW Review: DOUBLE CROSS at The Abbey Theatre
A lesson in critical thinking
A volatile cocktail: World War 2. Stormy politics. Nationalism. Fascism. Power. Propaganda. High treason.
Playwright, Thomas Kilroy's illuminating script spotlights two Irishman, both influential political wrestlers and unintentional opponents in the WW2 arena.
Tipperary-born Brendan Bracken was raised in Dublin & Limerick. Following a brief hiatus in Australia he emigrated to England. Fudging his age and embellishing his past with salubrious connections, Bracken launches his business and political careers, gaining access to Churchill's inner circle as Minister of Information.
"Germany calling, Germany calling, Germany calling." Brooklyn-born William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw), was raised in Galway before crossing the Irish sea to develop his political prowess in England. In 1939 he fled to Fascist Germany where he was naturalized and shortly after recruited as a propaganda broadcaster under Hitler's dominion.
With a cast of three superb character actors, director and spin doctor Jimmy Fay keeps the audience engaged and engrossed with this fast-paced personal and political drama.
Intriguingly, both Bracken & Joyce were played by the same actor. Ian Toner landed the challenging task of portraying both the pompous Englishmen who disowned their Irish roots. Despite being highly prominent political figures, Bracken & Joyce seem deeply insecure - neither personable and yet both compelling. Toner cleverly highlights their irksome similarities whilst artfully portraying each man's uniquely distinct personality.
Feigning his broadcast as originating from within England, German-based Joyce wantonly misinforms the British public spreading fear and confusion, whilst Bracken counters as Minister of Information by keenly urging them to ignore these false reports.
Sean Kearns and Charlotte McCurry both do a marvellous job playing a multitude of delightfully diverse characters beautifully balancing the conceited Bracken and Joyce. Their flawless dialects are a definite highlight.
Ciaran Bagnall's atmospheric set transports you to the 1940's and was deftly reinforced by Paul Keogan's moody lighting and Chris Warner's hypnotizing sound design. An open-plan office and lounge with staggered sliding screens displays Neil O'Driscoll's gripping video footage from WW2 as well as hair-prickling wireless broadcasts from Joyce whilst Bracken is on stage and vice versa.
Premiering 3 decades ago, Double Cross has made a timely reemergence in this co-production between the Abbey and the Lyric. Whilst radio dominated the airwaves during WW2, today we are bombarded with countless streams of information from a multitude of media sources. Gone is the office of Minister of Information to guide our thinking, with the onus on us to be discerning about the source and content of our information.
Critical thinking is imperative as is evident by the emergence of organisations such as the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), dedicated school subjects such as the Theory of Knowledge and books such as Factfulness by Hans Rosling. Double Cross stirs and inspires the audience to think critically. This is a certainly a play I shall be musing over for some time to come...
Double Cross runs at the Abbey Theatre until November 10th.