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Behind Closed Walls at Jack Studio Theatre

It was depressingly apt to be asked to review this play about the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland on the day that political parties in the province decided not to resume power-sharing at Stormont and instead triggered yet another general election.

Behind Closed Walls at Jack Studio TheatreThis two-handed, 65-minute play is probably the best written, acted and directed that I have seen at the Jack. The playwright and director/producer, Daryl J Blair, says that it is set in an unspecified future when there is a hard border between Northern and Southern Ireland, but in reality, it could have been set at any time in the recent past as well.

As the audience enters, someone is sitting centre stage with a black hood over his head, unable to move. We soon discover that he is Gary (Tiernan Mullane), a British Army soldier who has been captured by Shea (Eoin O’Dubhghaill), a member of the Real IRA. As Shea begins to interrogate Gary we quickly learn that he is not very experienced in doing this and is certainly not enjoying it. The two gradually find that they have a lot in common and even start to trust each other.

Both actors are very believable in role and give the play and their characters the light and shade that they need. At times the play is humourous, at others gripping, and Blair has a knack for writing believable dialogue that must be admired. Both actors are given individual opportunities to shine in telling their own stories and Mullane is given a moving monologue in the second half. Blair, as director, knows instinctively when to push the play on and there are moments when you can hear the audience reacting with shock, but he also knows when to let it relax so that the next climax is fully realised.

The denouement is perhaps a little predictable, and the lighting (uncredited) was too slow to fade at the very end – it needed to be a snap blackout! But this is a play that is well worth seeing – it is exactly the right length, and, unlike many new/newish writers, Blair does not waste words. Highly recommended – but you will have to be quick as it is only at the Jack (15 minutes from Blackfriars on Thameslink) this week!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

In an alternate future, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been completed. And The Troubles have returned to the streets of Belfast.

A British Army Recruit was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They have been taken by a Paramilitary group and kept under guard until it has been decided what to do with them. Their guard is a Volunteer, hoping to prove their worth and rise in the ranks.

Will the Recruit give up any information? Will they let the Recruit leave with his life? And will the Recruit and the Volunteer realise that there is more to them than meets the eye?

That’s when I knew, and hundreds knew. There was only one way for peace. To fight.

Behind Closed Walls
Creative Team:
Written and produced by Daryl J. Blair Directed by Daryl J. Blair & Phoebe Cresswell

Tiernan Mullane and Daryl J. Blair
Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 October 2022 at 7.30 pm

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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