The Ireland Trilogy - HISTORY
THEATREclub’s horrible HISTORY
THEATREclub’s excellent “The Ireland Trilogy” plays its third and final hand with the powerful HISTORY, an interrogation of the Irish State who created a homeland, and of its many people it left without a home. One part Ireland’s dramatic history, the other a history of Irish drama, HISTORY is both primary and secondary source for all things forgotten since 1916. So fierce is its interrogation a hundred years on, you can almost taste the blood, sweat and tears. Yet at the heart of HISTORY, rising out of the rubble of its themes and ideas, are the people standing behind them. People from Keogh Square, Goldenbridge and Saint Michael's Estate. The British may have moved on, but for many the songs remained the same, with the promises made by the State to the children of the revolution never being properly kept.
In HISTORY, THEATREclub attempt to reclaim and remember a forgotten past and a neglected present. History may repeat itself, and HISTORY does often repeat itself, for lessons are never truly learnt. From pointless debates during the founding of the State, through decades of silence surrounding the rosary makers in Goldenbridge, up to the warzone that was Saint Michael's Estate, HISTORY responds to the State’s neglect with a howl of rage. A rallying call that says ‘this far and no further.’ Kathleen Ni Houlihan once called Irish men to arms and their death against an oppressive regime. Can, or should, she do the same again? What would be different this time?
Theatrically, HISTORY has all the ferocity of a kick in the teeth. From the outset it never lets up, letting the audience know it intends interrogating Irish theatre as much as anything else. In this regard, it has some sublime moments, making some sharp points performatively. An anguished Virgin Mary despairingly reciting all the prayers ever hurled at her shows traces of genius. A woman seeking accommodation from a self serving bureaucrat is utterly heart rending. Indeed, HISTORY is at its potent best when it makes its points and moves on. When it lingers, it feels like it gets stuck, diminishing some of its impact, as in the whirling Irish dancer from Goldenbridge. On occasion, its lingering risks completely undermining all its good work. Never more so than in the prolonged repetition during the decline of St. Michael's Estate, where the repeated pattern based around phone calls almost undermines the very message it's trying to send.
As always, the cast of Shane Byrne, Gemma Collins, Gerard Kelly, Barry O’Connor, Louise Lewis and Lauren Larkin do an outstanding job, as does director Grace Dyas. Video Artist, Joe Lee successfully conveys times and places through a simple, yet cleverly edited projection. A dissonant score-come-soundscape by Gerard Kelly, Barry O’Connor and Sean Miller is something of a mixed blessing, hitting the right vein at times, feeling mind numbingly painful at others, particularly towards the end of the St Michael’s Estate sequence. Indeed, this prolonged scene ultimately risks alienating the audience. It starts imaginatively enough, but a few examples in and you got it. Then you just want it to stop and move on. But it doesn’t move on and by the end you just want it over. A bad place to put the audience when calling them to join you.
Politically, HISTORY deals in the politics of protest and revolution, and unquestionably has its own political agenda. Some might argue it borders on propaganda. Indeed, “The Ireland Trilogy” is a theatrical triptych not afraid to get off the fence. You may not like it, you may not agree or want to hear what it has to say, and it might even be unsettling both politically and theatrically. But it will certainly provoke debate. And isn't that the point of a National Theatre? To stage works that are relevant, contemporary, challenging and thought provoking with regards to Irish culture and society? If that is indeed the case, then on the evidence of “The Ireland Trilogy” THEATREclub should be made company in residence. A must see production.
HISTORY along with “HEROIN” and “The Family” comprise the “The Ireland Trilogy” by THEATRECLUB. All three productions are currently running at The Peacock Stage of The Abbey Theatre until November 26th