Tron Theatre, Glasgow
The Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland was founded by the late Dr Ian Paisley in 1971. This was a year before playwright John McCann was born in Portadown, County Armagh, the so-called ecclesiastical capital of Ireland some twenty-four miles from Belfast.
This is partly the drive behind McCann’s monologue, which he performs himself following last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe run, and which on its current tour is being updated on the hoof as anecdotes and real life events run on apace.
The prime motivation, however, was the result of the 2016 EU referendum, and the increasing power the DUP seemed to wield in Westminster. Then there was the conversation he had in an Edinburgh pub five years ago, during which he discovered just how little those outside of Northern Ireland know about the day to day activities of the party. Out of this comes a prodigal’s pilgrimage to McCann’s birthplace from his home in Scotland to find out why any of this matters.
Armed with only a bible and a megaphone, McCann intersperses his meditations with recordings, both of archive radio segments, and interviews he conducted during his various trips home. The former allows the audience to hear the DUP’s views from the horse’s mouth in all the part’s at times jaw-dropping reactionary stance. The latter, conducted with activists and bridge-makers on the front line, are infinitely more hopeful.
As with hit TV sitcom, Derry Girls, McCann’s show mines material about Northern Ireland and the Troubles which up until fairly recently might have been considered too hot to handle on a public platform. A riff on how to tell the difference between a Catholic and a Protestant - mythological or otherwise - predates a similar scene in the current run of the programme, and is just as comical.
In the current political climate, the ending may be as uncertain as everything else going on in the world. By bringing things so close to home, however, McCann, at least, seems to have found a very personal kind of peace.
The Herald, April 8th 2019