What's Left of the Flag

Fri, Apr 16, 2010, 01:00

Theatre Upstairs@thePlough

Two men are hiding out together on the third floor of an abandoned building in Dublin. Are they drug dealers, drug addicts, newly homeless victims of Dublin’s recent hard times? No, they are Mossad agents on a secret stake-out, sent to take out one of Gaza’s leading activists who is speaking at a public rally.

If the opening premise for Jimmy Murphy’s short play seems improbable, it slowly develops into a sensitive study of politics and morality, as the two hit men come to conflict over ideas of might and right in the historic conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews. “To be a good Jew you must have a good conscience,” the older katsa, Jacob, insists. “To be a good Israeli you must have a good memory.”

But there are limits to what his younger, less experienced compatriot, Yossi, will do. Are even unborn children a threat to the State? Or is “the whole world . . . the enemy of Israel?” In its more light-hearted moments, Murphy uses his foreign characters to have some fun at Ireland’s expense; its appalling weather, its terrible cuisine. But they vent their frustration about Ireland’s history too.

“The Irish,” Jacob expostulates, “they are so . . . fucking English! TV. Newspapers. They fought for freedom 90 years ago and this is what they do with it!”

Gerard Byrne and Sean Flanagan struggle a little with accents, but under Charlie Bonner’s sharp direction, there is real tension in this effective production, and the claustrophobic space of the Theatre Upstairs redoubles the sense of danger.

Byrne’s Jacob is coiled like a rifle waiting to go off, while Kavanagh is genuinely affecting as he realises what he must do in the name of his country. There is no stepping back from terrorism when you accede to its fundamentalist logic, Yossi, grieving for his own good conscience, realises. What’s Left of the Flagis a considered reminder of those consequences.

Runs Until May 8th