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Review of Chris Thompson’s Carthage at Finborough Theatre

Carthage at Finborough TheatreChris Thompson has laid down a heartfelt masterpiece. His twelve years as a social worker are apparent in his writing, he knows the relationships, the characters and the questions that Carthage raises, such as: Is the social system a protection for our families when all else fails or are they as abusive as the situations from which they are rescued?  I still don’t know the answer and that’s the beauty about Carthage – you are left feeling that there is so much more to this profoundly grey area.

This world premier of Carthage is eighty minutes without an interval although it doesn’t need one as you feel as though you are watching a TV drama or even a film under Robert Hastie’s natural direction.

Set out of sync in London between 1998 and 2013, Thompson tells the story of a young lad (Tommy) born into a broken world with no sign of a father figure and a mother (Anne) damaged by hers.  We see the strained relationships between Social Services, families and the police unfold without false pretence or favour of each party. Even with Tommy’s last moments in prison caught on CCTV no one can answer the simple question: Who’s fault was it?

Jack McMullen as Tommy Anderson is real. He is powerful yet fragile and heart-warming at times as he looks at his mother Clare-Louise Cordwell playing Anne Anderson who gave birth to her son Tommy in prison where he subsequently dies.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off her, she captured every level of Anne and it is very clear she laid her soul on that stage.  ‘I was the best mum I could be’ and I believed her.

My real hero of this piece Lisa Palfrey as Sue Ruskin shoots out of the wings like a greyhound and had the whole audience in the palm of her hand right to the end.  Her love for Tommy and Anne as their social worker is apparent and yet part of me thinks even she had a part to play in Tommy’s death.  She had me crying one minute and laughing away the tears the next.

Toby Wharton’s conviction shown in his portrayal of Marcus Reeve is excellent, as there is no doubt this is a tough role to play as Tommy’s guard.

The stylish yet simple set, lighting and sound design are faultless in keeping with a script that could stand alone if need be with these seven incredible actors that will leave you speechless.

Review by Dean McCullough


Directed by Robert Hastie
Designed by James Perkins
Lighting by Gary Bowman
Sound Design by Emma Laxton
Fight Direction by Philip d’Orleans
Casting by Alastair Coomer CDG and Vicky Richardson
Presented by Theatre Bench in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre

Tuesday to Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm.
Sunday Matinees at 3.00pm.
Saturday Matinees 3.00pm (from 8 February 2014).
Performance Length: Approximately 90 minutes with no interval.

Friday 31st January 2014


  • Dean McCullough

    Dean, originally from Belfast, trained at Laine Theatre Arts where he was awarded a full scholarship. Before his time at Laines Dean trained in Belfast with Music Theatre for Youth (MT4uth) where he played Judas in Godspell which transferred to the Rose Theatre, Kingston amongst other roles including Pharaoh in Joseph, Bugsy in Bugsy Malone and Nathan in Guys in Dolls. Dean still works closely with MT4uth and regularly returns to choreograph and assist their international creative team on a range events from musicals including Our House and Little Shop of Horrors to The Titanic Festival and other corporate events including Tourism Ireland, World Police & Fire Games and Aston Martin. Dean was invited to a presenting workshop at Sadlers Wells where he was scouted by the creative director of MOVE IT! who offered him his own show at the exhibition the following March and since then many doors have opened and his love for presenting blossomed. Presenting credits include - The Big Dance Bus, Dance Show Live, Belfast Pride, The Wedding Show and MOVE IT - where he interviewed world renowned choreographer Sean Cheeseman. Dean is also an ambassador for Youthaction NI and The Princes Trust working closely with the young people of Northern Ireland sharing experiences and giving regular workshops.

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