Review: Shadow of a Gunman Lyric Theatre, Belfast

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The Lyric and Abby Theatre came together yet again in the current production of Shadow of a Gunman, running in the Lyric until June 6.

Wayne Jordan’s adaptation of Sean O’Casey’s play took steps to bring the story of the goings on in a Dublin Tenement during the Irish War of Independence into the modern day.

Starring Mark O’Halloran as Donal Davoren, a poet with a romantic notion mistaken for a member of the Irish Republican Army and David Ganly as Seamus Shields as the garrulous peddler of shoddy goods, the pair give superb performances displaying both the strength and weakness that O’Casey characterised. O’Halloran portrays a romantic literary sort relishing the affection bestowed upon him by the young and impressionable Minnie Powell (Amy McAllister), even though her admiration and flattery stems from the rumour of him being a Republican gunman. Ganly embodies all one would associate with a dodgy salesman throwing in some humour whilst voicing his disposition for Nationalism but condemning those who are fighting for it. The modernity comes from Sarah Bacon’s costume design, like the sporty dress and trainers for Minnie and the tracksuit for Tommy Owens.

Dan Gordon made his debut on the new Danske Bank stage as Adolphus Grigson, an Orangeman living in the same tenement and fond of the drink. I’m a huge fan of Dan Gordon perhaps more so when he dons his director hat so I was a little disappointed that his debut would come in the form of a character similar to the one we always associate with Gordon, Red Hand Luke. Needless to say his display of the drunk Mr Grigson nursing his portrait of King William and a bottle of whiskey is a convincing one.

The play, written in two acts could have benefited from an interval – in my opinion. What is it with no intervals? Give the audience a break! And not just for the bathroom! There was a lot of dialogue in the second act between Davoren and Shields and I felt my mind wondering a little, no discredit to the performance in front of me, but I wanted the chance to process everything. I love the opportunity during the interval to discuss the story being played out , the performances, the set and to put out thoughts of were the production will take us. Sometimes to fully immerse yourself in a play from start to finish is an exhilarating experience but for me the suspense of the play’s climax just wasn’t gripping enough to keep me in my seat – albeit for 1 hour 45 minutes. The overall production was good with the minimal but effective set, the music amplifying the intensity at times and of course the wonderful performances from the complete cast. The play will move on to the Abbey Theatre, where it premiered over 90 years ago in 1923, on June 16.