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Shall Roger Casement Hang?

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

In a cell in Scotland Yard, a knight of the realm is in custody awaiting questioning after being found on an Irish beach with a bag full of bullets. By the next day, where he should have been immortalised as a glorious martyr to a doomed cause, other factors will dictate that he is, not written out of the history he helped make, exactly, but hardly lionised the way his fallen comrades are.

So it goes for Roger Casement in Peter Arnott's gripping two-hander, in which Casement's rebellious adventurer, human rights activist and republican gun runner caught out in the run up to the 1916 Easter Rising sounds like some pulp fiction super-hero. This is especially so considering the fact that he is also a well-heeled establishment figure and a homosexual who likes to document his illicit liaisons in prose that comes to define him even as it brings about his downfall.

Such contradictions run deep in Andy Arnold's Tron Theatre Company production for this year's Irish flavoured Mayfesto season. While Casement's interrogation by hard-nosed Scotsman Captain Hall is initially respectful, as played by Stephen Clyde with grim-faced politesse, good cop turns bad the next day as Casement's secret life is unearthed. Benny Young invests a seasoned hang-dog gravitas to Casement's exchanges with Hall, even as Hall compares him to Oscar Wilde, another sexual rebel “evangelical of art, Ireland and buggery,” as he puts it. Over eighty-minutes of cut and thrust punctuated by flashbacks that sees each scene captioned as a misplaced file might be, Arnott gets to the core of both men with forensic insight in this most intimate of psychological thrillers.

The Herald, May 23rd 2016

ends

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