Camden New Journal 11 April 2002
OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCHING TOWARDS THE SOMME
WITH war looming over Iraq while Palestine goes up in flames, there could not be a more topical play than this gripping revival of what has been recognised as a minor clas-sic of the theatre since its premiere in 1985.
This play is about the madness of the First World War. But the ideas and passions that drove men towards the trenches could just as well be seen as a template for the insanity now captured by TV cam-eras in Palestine.
Loyalty to Ulster and to a loyalist nation seduce the characters conjured up by Frank McGuinness. Their minds full of bigotry and hatred of Catholics or Taigs, eight men, from all walks of life, volunteer to fight for the flag.
There is no attempt to give a documentary por-trayal of the insanity of trench warfare.
Nor is Frank McGuinness preoccupied with the pity of war.
Nationalism is his sub-ject, and he dissects its poi-sonous ideas with humour, wit and beautiful language.
At first, like so many men of their age, the characters are almost in love with war and death. But through comradeship they realise the only thing worth dying for is each other. Not that they disown the national-ism that pulled them into the flames. At the end, they don their Orange sashes as they go over the parapet.
James Phillips, who makes his debut as a direc-tor with this play, chose, perhaps mistakenly, to weld the two first scenes into too long a first act, but this is a small criticism of a rich and brave piece of direction, backed up by imaginative lighting from Guy Hoare.
Nicholas Sidi as the sculptor who can see through the false god of nationalism puts in a subtle and compelling perfor-mance and little fault can be found with the rest of the cast - Doyne Byrd, Robin Pearce, Alex Humes, Tony Devlin, Gregory Fox-Murphy, David Rolston, Jonjo O'Nem and Dominic McHale.
© - 2002 Camden New Journal