Theatre Review: The Shadow of a Gunman

The Shadow of a Gunman
Lyric Theatre
until 6th June 2015

This is an enthralling production. The Shadow of a Gunman is all about mistaken identity, a romantic poet sharing a flat in an overcrowded tenement in a poor area of Dublin who is suspected of being a member of the IRA. He intrigues a young neighbour, Minnie Powell (Amy McAllister) who falls in love with Donal Davoren (Mark O’Halloran) and glories in her belief that he is a gunman who will die for Ireland. He doesn’t mind, after all he says, what danger can there be in being the shadow of a gunman.

He shares with Seumas Shields, (David Ganly) a salesman of novelty toys, a bluff man who is disillusioned with ‘the struggle‘. They have very little in common but late at night as they each lie in their uncomfortable beds, they talk and share their take on life, it’s a very sensitive scene. There’s a lot of humour in this play, the language is exquisite and the tensions are highlighted with director Wayne Jordan’s introduction of a sinister and unsettling low hum which fills the theatre. These tensions mount as neighbours talk of the army coming to ransack the building. The problem is a bag stashed by Seumas’s friend, they discover it’s filled with hand grenades. Panic. Brave little Minnie has the answer, she’ll take them to her room because surely they’ll leave a young woman alone and move on to search somewhere else. Sadly she’s wrong. She’s arrested, taken out and shot dead in an ambush. This leaves the two men devastated and racked with guilt. “Minnie Powell is dead, killed to save us.”

An excellent cast including strong performances from Dan Gordon as an overbearing alcoholic, wife beating Orangeman with a Bible under one arm and a picture of King William under the other. Catherine Walsh is another loud mouthed resident with some great lines, and lloyd Cooney as a young Republican supporter, in fact the entire cast is impressive.

At times of tension, director Wayne Jordan has introduced a sinister and unsettling feel to proceedings with an ominous low hum vibrating throughout the theatre.

Although set in 1920 there are modern touches on stage, a mini skirt, a portable typewriter, uncomfortable for traditionalists but to most a good way of making the point that this story can happen at any time in any place.

These are O’Casey’s words, no updating here and with his daughter Siobhán in the audience on Thursday night it was important to honour his writing. Excellent was her verdict as it was for the majority of the audience.

By Anne Hailes

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Post Author: Belfast Times

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