Using the bar space at the Omnibus theatre, we the audience, along with the Polish barman Robert (Matt Dunphy) are witness to the meeting of two men in a Northern Ireland pub; two men with a harrowing past shared experience, but from opposing sides of the political and religious divide in Owen McCafferty’s Quietly, writes Susan Hallissey
Beginning with glints of humour, Jimmy (Paul Lloyd) and Robert chide each other over the World Cup qualifier between Poland and Northern Ireland. The banter in the opening works well – we could be in a bar in any town. Robert is not without his own story as his phone texts are relayed to us through the sound system. Once Ian (Nick Danan) arrives the narrative begins to deepen. A shocking and realistic introduction to their story felt raw and powerful.
As the audience are seated around tables with a few rows of chairs at the back I struggled to see, which was frustrating, especially when the tension began to heighten and the story revealed.
Jimmy and Ian have never met – however, the traumatic event that took place over thirty years ago in 1974 when they were both 16, was achingly familiar. One man’s actions changing the other man’s world forever, yet both trying to come to terms with that day. Whilst Robert looks on silently listening to the story unfold, I found his stillness impressive as he engages with Jimmy and Ian’s tale.
Solid performances from all cast, and Lloyd in particular, who felt like any man in any town’s pub.
This is a deep and at times heavy piece, how could it be anything else when raising questions about forgiveness, power and divisions that still run rife in society today? When Robert tops up Jimmy’s drink at the end of the meeting I felt choked.
Robert has his own demons to deal with, questioning what has changed? To find out if ‘some good came out of it’ you will have to go and see. Realistic, moody and still – my companion said it made her think deeply of the troubles. If you’re after a song and dance it’s not for you – but to raise awareness regarding Northern Ireland and how people’s lives were affected back then and still are, take a look.
Quietly is on at the Omnibus Theatre, 1 Clapham Common Northside, SW4 0QW until 27th October. Times: Tues – Sat 9pm. Admission: £16/£13. Phonee: 020 7498 4699