Green & Blue
There’s a series of dualities at the heart of Green & Blue, from the Belfast-based theatre company Kabosh. Two men on stage face the audience: David McCabe of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (played by Vincent Higgins), in his green uniform, and Eddie O’Halloran of An Garda Síochána (played by James Doran), in blue: two lowly police officers from different jurisdictions, patrolling the Border at the height of conflict in 1994, months before the IRA ceasefire.
Both are outsiders, with a question mark over where home is, one a blow-in from Cork, barely tolerated in the place he has lived for years, the other disconnected from the Fermanagh borderlands where he works (“Be pleasant but formal”), away from his family in Co Down. Their lives and situations and experiences are poles apart, but there are parallels, reflecting the dualities of the North. Their uniforms are a comfort, a shield, but also a social barrier and a target; both know what it is to be hunted, the RUC man in particular operating daily under threat of death.
Paula McFetridge’s bold yet delicate production teases out these dualities, the humanity behind the uniforms, the complexities of trust and distrust. The terror and brutalities are palpable, but there are many moments of humour, and many more of understanding and empathy, as Higgins and Doran, in strong, well-judged performances, communicate initially on crackly radios before eventually meeting in person, across the invisible Border, in a field.
Kabosh specialises in giving voice to unheard narratives. Green & Blue is inspired by interviews with real police officers for the oral histories gathered for Diversity Challenges’ Voices from the Vault. The play has a deceptively simple structure, and in 70 minutes the audience learns much. The surprise, initially, is that this nuanced and empathetic treatment comes from a former IRA man and hunger striker, Laurence McKeown, whose script skilfully and open-heartedly walks in another’s shoes.
Since its development, in 2016, Green & Blue has been seen by gardaí and former RUC officers and their families, as well as abroad and across North Ireland. A postshow discussion is like a second act of the experience: McFetridge and McKeown talk about making the work and about reactions to it. A play initially about policing is now about borders too, yet nothing has changed in the script since 2014, just the context in which it is played, making it ever more relevant and significant.
McKeown’s play has humanity at the core, and it demonstrates theatre’s significant potential to deal with legacy and to open minds after conflict. All the same, at Project on Tuesday evening, he is ambiguous in reponse to an audience question about whether any play or work of fiction has changed his perspective on the conflict at all. He stresses the power of human interactions with people with different life experiences from him, rather than appearing to change his attitudes to past actions at all – he stands by joining the IRA at 17, he says, and believes there wouldn’t have been change otherwise. You’re left wondering what has truly been seen, learnt and felt.
Runs at Project Arts Centre, Dublin 2, until Saturday, June 3rd