Arts > Life, death and being Irish

05 May 2016 | by Mark Lawson

Life, death and being Irish


An East Belfast loyalist, shown his baby granddaughter for the first time, is horrified to see the face of Gerry Adams looking back at him. A depressed young man, seeing no option but to end his life, finds access to his suicide auctioned to the highest bidders.

These premises – ridiculous and yet also reflecting, in exaggerated form, a recognisable social reality – are classic examples of the genre of black comic satire that, in an instruct­ive coincidence, I saw on consecutive nights.

Cyprus Avenue, transferred from Dublin’s Abbey Theatre to London’s Royal Court, is the biggest play so far from David Ireland, an emerging dramatist whose work, including a recent BBC Radio 4 play Not Now, particularly explores the position of Protestants in Northern Ireland after the peace process.

Eric, a role that returns Stephen Rea to the stage, has been so deranged by Britain’s political accommodation with Sinn Féin that he is convinced the nationalist leader has somehow occupied the body of his youngest relative. But the skill of the play and of the baffled charm that Rea brings to the portrayal is that, although Eric is an absolute extremist whose beliefs lead him to terrible acts, it is possible to feel some sympathy for his cultural confusion.


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