JOYCE MCMILLAN on TROUBLE AND SHAME at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 3.9.13.
3 stars ***
IT’S THE FIRST Monday in September; and a huge crowd of Glasgow West Enders gathers at Oran Mor for the opening play of this year’s Play, Pie and Pint autumn season. Between now and December, they’ll have a chance to see plays by Ian Pattison, Peter Arnott , James Runcie, Daniel Jackson and Rona Munro, among others. Today, though, it’s a new offering from the brilliant young Northern Irish actor and playwright David Ireland, about the torrid politics of his home province; the central character is a desperate Scottish everyman called Hunter who, for his own reasons, kidnaps the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland – the one male and Protestant, the other female and Catholic – and tries to force them to reach a new peace agreement, on pain of never being relelased.
The play’s problem lies in the character of the kidnapper, who is portrayed – in faintly absurdist style – as a naive buffoon, surprised to find that the politicians are quite angry at being kidnapped. Ireland delays his explanation of what the genial Hunter wants for many tedious minutes, filled with lumbering comic misunderstandings, and with Hunter’s repeated attempts to get the politicians to eat his supplies of Gregg’s sausage rolls.
Once Hunter explains himself, the dialogue rapidly becomes sharper, funnier and more moving, as the two politicians demonstrate their masterly ability to disagree even on the very name of every single thing they might discuss. In Phillip Breen’s production, the play is illuminated by three fine performances from Paul Riley as Hunter, and Robbie Jack and Veronica Leer as the politicians; but it’s hard not to feel that the first half of the action is more or less redundant, and that this play – short as it is – should have begun somewhere around its own midpoint, and continued for a while after its current sticky ending.