JOYCE MCMILLAN on A TERRIBLE BEAUTY at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 13.9.14.
4 stars ****
THE YEAR IS 1922, and Michael Collins, the commander of the National Army of the new Irish Free State, is at war with his former comrades in the Irish nationalist movement, who have decided to turn against the independence treaty signed between the British Government and the new Free State leaders. As one of the men who negotiated the treaty, Collins is in the firing line; and his old comrade Eamon De Valera is playing a deep game, allowing others to dirty their hands with the business of setting up a viable state, while waiting to inherit the power that he eventually held for more than 50 years, until his death in the 1970’s.
This is the context of Ian Pattison’s powerful new 50-minute play for the Play, Pie And Pint season, which covers a day in the life of Collins and a young Scottish volunteer, McPeak, who finds himself making notes on a vital negotiation between Collins and De Valera’s representative, a sleazy character called Crowley. John Kielty turns in a totally compelling performance as one of the most brilliant and charismatic leaders of Irish nationalism, suffering from a heavy cold and a kidney infection, but full of wit and energy, only gradually realising just how weak his position has become. And with powerful support from Gavin Wright as young McPeak and a terrifying George Docherty as Crowley, Liz Carruthers’s production emerges as a terrific miniature play for today; full of resonances that will resound with huge force, if Scotland finds itself, after next week, sitting down to negotiate terms for the birth of an independent nation.