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The History of the Troubles (accordin' to my Da)
by Ben Clover

There's only one TV here and I want Top of the Pops, that's an order. -- Gerry in Long Kesh prison

That this play is on at all and that it is far more funny than fraught is a good indicator of how far attitudes towards Northern Irish politics have come in recent years. A play like this at the Tricycle in Kilburn, the heart, or at least a major organ of the London Irish community would have been controversial ten and inconceivable twenty years ago.

The piece is a collaboration between playwright Martin Lynch and comics Grimes and McKee and does pretty much what it says on the tin. Thirty four years of Northern Irish history is crammed into eighty five minutes of gentle comedy. Ivan Little plays the Da with Conor Grimes and Alan McKee, everyone else. The story of Gerry the Da and the Troubles is told with physical theatre, three chairs and a stage unadorned but for framed pictures.

To the accompaniment of the music of the Rolling Stones we follow Gerry through the pivotal events of Northern Irish history from manning the barricades in 1969, to his joining the IRA, the death of Bobby Sands in 1981, to Gerry's own internment in Long Kesh prison. The music is used to signal the era until finally, as an old man, Gerry is no longer able to do his impression of Mick Jagger.

Great "issues" plays fuse the personal and political, the micro and macro, seamlessly and this production makes a bold stab at that. "Have you noticed how your haemorrhoids have flared up at every major point in the conflict?" Gerry is asked by his friend Fireball (Conor Grimes). Fireball is an old fashioned comic foil, more idiot than savant, but has many of the best lines. For example, "I'm so hungry I could eat a child's arse through a hole in the fence".

The Troubles is diverting and energetic but it lacks the teeth to be hilarious rather than just charming. Although it is full of humour and peppy performances, there was only really the safe laughter of recognition or of celebration and not enough drama to really ignite the evening. Compared to Martin McDonagh's Lieutenant of Inishmore, a black farce in a similar setting, The Troubles seems a little too safe, perhaps even a little too old. I liked the use of the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" which is a reworking of the Rolling Stones' number The Last Time, the lyrics of which herald the end of Gerry's involvement in, and the cessation of the Troubles.

The History of the Troubles (accordin' to my Da)/Lynch, Martin and Grimes & McKee (London)

Written by Martin Lynch and Grimes & McKee
Directed by Karl Wallace

With: Ivan Little, Alan McKee, Conor Grimes
Designer: David Craig
Lighting Designer: Amy Smyth
Running time: Eighty five minutes without an interval.
Box Office: 020 7328 1000
Booking to 28th June 2003
Reviewed by Ben Clover based on 23rd May 2003 Performance at the Tricycle, 269 Kilburn High Road London NW6 (Tube Station: Kilburn)

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