Whether it's politics or theatre, everybody knows it's behind the scenes where the real work gets done. This is something Lynne Parker's production of the late Stewart Parker's 1984 play, revived by Rough Magic for the Tron's Mayfesto season, recognises in abundance. Parker opens her uncle's study of Henry Joy McCracken, the lost hero of the 1798 Irish rebellion, by having her troupe of actors wander onto a stage which has been turned around to reveal a rare glimpse of its wings. In what begins in a safe-house where McCracken and his lover Mary Bodle are holed up after the rebellion, this framing device heightens Stewart Parker's dramatic fantasia, so history is mythologised even as it is being made.
Stewart Parker does this by interspersing McCracken and Mary's last night together with delirious reflections presented in the manner of the greats of Irish literature. Key moments are delivered as part pastiche and part homage to Sheridan, Boucicault and Wilde. As the stakes are raised even higher than the noose that hangs over the action as the deadliest of props, the spirits of Synge, O'Casey, Behan and Beckett are similarly channelled.
Paul Mallon and Charlotte McCurry appear as bleak as a Play For Today as the central couple, while the ghosts McCracken conjures up pass around his military tunic like a badge of honour. While a working knowledge of Ireland's dramatic literature may be desirable to pick up all the references points, what is unmistakeable in the Parkers' sense of theatre is how politics and art are the most inseparable of bedfellows. The punky portents of future struggles that close the show confirm this.
The Herald, May 13th 2016