This Piece Of Earth

This Piece Of Earth
3 stars ***
Underbelly (Venue 61)

A COUPLE OF years ago, Ransom Productions of Belfast scored a huge Fringe hit  with a storming tribute to snooker ace Hurricane Higgins, starring Richard Dormer in an award-winning performance.  Now, Dormer himself has written a play, inspired by recent commemorations of the great Irish famine of the 1840’s, and by the poignant discovery – in a bog near one of Ireland’s emigration ports – of the bodies of a couple, embracing in death.  For a heartbreaking 50 minutes, Dormer’s play leads us through an imagined last conversation between this couple, whom he casts as a bookish middle-aged country schoolteacher and his beautiful young wife, pregnant with their first child; and it’s certainly a dark, unrelenting experience for anyone expecting the theatrical thrills, fireworks, and bursts of comedy that made Hurricane such a success.

For connoisseurs of heartlfelt writing and fine acting, though, This Piece Of Earth is a rich experience, full of a fresh, raw sense of the absurdity of death.  This couple are in the middle of their lives, full of dreams and hopes and humour and their own uniqueness; it seems absurd that a mere avoiidable shortage of food could be about to bring it all to an end.  Lalor Roddy and Claire Lamont give two memorable and moving performances, in Rachel O’Riordan’s finely-paced production; and although Ireland is no longer stalked by famine, it’s worth remembering that this terrible scene of human potential needlessly snuffed out is re-enacted for real, every day, somewhere on our troubled planet.

Joyce McMillan
Until 26 August
p. 230



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