Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Review Everything Between Us

Everything Between Us
by David Ireland

What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love And Understanding?

Actually there's quite a lot that can be darkly and ironically funny about professed peace, love and understanding after years of violence (don't ask us to explain a situation which has mutated over hundreds of years from Plantation colonization to now Brexit adding a new complication to a twisty history).

Northern Ireland. Yes, we're talking about Northern Ireland. As we've seen previously, playwright David Ireland (yes, it really is his name ...) charges in like the proverbial bull in the china shop, but something real and universal emerges when he refuses to glue together the pieces as if they were never broken or even to pretend that he can't see the cracks.

But enough of cryptic metaphors. Everything Between Us is a two hander. Sandra (Lynsey-Anne Moffat) has become part of the Stormont establishment, a seemingly outward looking politician who is helping facilitate a peace and reconciliation commission under the glare of the world's press.

Yet the proposed peaceful opening of the conference is disrupted, in almost reverse Dr Strangelove-style, by a wildcard in the shape of Sandra's long-lost violent sister,  blonde rock chick Teeni. She fans the flames of old hostilities, intransigently inventing new battles, albeit with occasional lapses into moments of reflection.

Everything Between Us has the trajectory of a cathartic play. However,  it never supplies any closure of or easy answers to a stand off which has different incarnations in many countries riven by civil war atrocities for whatever reason, bringing destruction, maiming and death to often innocent citizens.

While some of the references may be immediately recognizable to many as indicating which side of the Northern Ireland divide the sisters are on, the Protestant unionist side, it's left until nearly at the end for us to fully understand the siblings' affiliation.

Indeed, despite the clues laid down, the glamour of Teeni beside her more frumpy sister almost also seemed to reflect the romanticized image of the IRA successfully promoted throughout the world during The Troubles.

Is it a successful play? Well, this is an unusual review in that we don't know whether it needs to be. Dramatically it feels flawed.

Teeni pours out both venom and occasionally more perceptive, if clouded by a gleeful rage, insights for most of the play before Sandra belies her more conservative demeanour with her own hocus pocus.

The jokes are hit and miss - not so much because they're not funny but some do feel thrown in rather than emerging from character. But there's a lot that is thrown and sticks.

This applies especially to how legal structures such as tribunals and commissions after the formal end of hostilities refuse to countenance the contradictions involved in themselves.

Acoholics Anonymous becomes a metaphor for the addiction to both violence and then confessions with sponsors just as compromised as those whom they sponsor. All reflecting a world situation when a commission narrows its focus down to itself and one country rather than the global affiliations which often helped the violence continue.

It's a play that maybe doesn't fit all the jigsaw pieces together - angry, cynical, raw, jagged where political and  media-friendly vested interest smooth over the wrongs to construct an artificial right.

Neil Bull directs with a sure hand, maintaining the momentum over seventy minutes against a dishevelled backdrop of  a basement filled with now disused metal filing cabinets, trailing cables and flickering lights designed by Laura Cordery.

But it's also very clearly a play that's also a fantasy. It's difficult to imagine such a confrontation between the sisters in these circumstances. Indeed even their attitudes feel awkward for women.

And maybe there's the nub of it - Ireland the playwright has chosen two women to channel and front the very male-dominated worlds in which each of them live. And it's a strength that this seems an awkward fit because it forces us to think about what these conflict resolution processes really are.

It's a green light for a deliberately uneasy and stimulating one act play which keeps us in the room with problems we may not want to, but need to, consider.

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