BWW Review: HERE COMES THE NIGHT, Lyric Theatre, Apr 2016
The commemoration of the 1916 Rising isn't an easy project. The insurrection that provided the foundational story for an Irish Republic also brought much upheaval to Dublin and beyond. It's even more complex through a Northern Irish lens.
Rosemary Jenkinson's timely new play for Belfast's Lyric Theatre addresses this through a clever framework: two snapshots of a home in East Belfast.
In 1966, writer Vincent (Michael Condron} lays the tricolour thick in his 1916-inspired novel. His pregnant wife Mary (Kerri Quinn) fears that it will bring fire upon them by the fraught Protestant community in the area. This is the city on the brink of The Troubles.
In 2016, the house is bought by Irish-Polish couple Jim and Marta (Condron and Susan Davey). They're approached by the director of a local historical society (Niall Cusack) about placing a plaque outside their home dedicated to an obscure writer. The couple weigh up whether to allow for the plaque, a possible sign of diversity in the community, or another call for undesired attention.
The historical discrepancies are fascinating, and Jenkinson's dialogue is sharp. However, her characters tend to run on social commentaries more than dramatic action. The attraction between coolheaded Jenny (Davey) and joker Freddie (Thomas Finnegan) is primarily indicative of 1960s progressiveness, and, like several other plotlines, seems unfinished. Other developments seem contrived, such as a palm reading, a sit-in protest, and a comical Culture Minister (a satire of the real deal).
A rigorous cast can't save a piece that, with director Jimmy Fay's heavy touch, departs into melodrama. The play feels rushed into existence, which is ironic; for all of Jenkinson's fascination with moments of commemoration, the final message seems to be to forget it and get on with your life.
Here Comes the Night runs at Lyric Theatre, Belfast until May 14th.