It’s Not Over review: Trapped by the Troubles

THEATREclub’s sprawling drama is a rebuke to official views of the North’s recent history

Trading gleefully in Provo iconography: It’s Not Over. Photograph:  Babs Daly/Sarah Fox

Trading gleefully in Provo iconography: It’s Not Over. Photograph: Babs Daly/Sarah Fox

 

It’s Not Over ★★
Samuel Beckett Theatre

In 1960, while attending the Hollywood premiere of Exodus, Otto Preminger’s cinematic epic about the establishment of Israel, the Jewish American comedian Mort Sahl stood up after the three-hour mark and howled: “Otto, let my people go!” Four hours into the aptly named It’s Not Over, THEATREclub’s sprawling, experimental and highly selective history of the republican movement’s involvement in the Troubles, one knows how Sahl felt.

Written and directed by Grace Dyas and Barry O’Connor, the drama is a rebuke to official commemorations of 1916 – it seeks to explore, if not glory in, the events that propelled the Provisional IRA’s campaign. It recreates, in highly stylised fashion, key moments from the republican narrative of repression and resistance, from Bloody Sunday to the hunger strikes. (There are also some graphic recreations of republican violence, but these are exceptions from the overarching viewpoint.)

This uncomfortable thematic arc asserts that the struggle is not over, due to the unsatisfactory nature of the post-peace process North, while trading gleefully in Provo iconography: there’s much strutting around with Armalites and balaclavas. But these political qualms tend to get lost in the maelstrom of mock drills, constant explosions and – sensitive souls beware – dead fawns. In fairness, there are also some witty meta-moments and intriguing dramatic flourishes, such as a fractured O’Casey play within a play.

Instead of recreating the cauldron-like atmosphere of the Troubles, the net effect is more akin to being trapped in some infernal actors’ workshop. (In fairness, the interminable length does a good job of evoking the grim intractability of the Troubles at the time.) Meanwhile, most of the characters seem like ciphers, be they screaming victims, nefarious crown forces or nobly flawed paramilitaries, such as the recurring “unnamed IRA volunteer”.

By the end, the audience has practically developed Stockholm syndrome with the cast, whose obvious exhaustion is testament to their wholehearted committal to the enterprise. 

But neither their efforts nor the moments of theatrical elan can redeem the show. Rather than being provocative, groundbreaking or challenging, it winds up being portentous, cliched and self-indulgent.

At one stage, the cast break out into chants of “Up the ’Ra”: if they had only left it at that, they would have made their point. At the very least, it would have been over quicker.

Until October 16th

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