Directors:Grace Dyas &Barry O’ Connor
Writers: Grace Dyas &Barry O’ Connor
Reviewer: Ciara L Murphy
Any show that issues its audience with a warning about a dead animal and a set of earplugs before entry is sure to build a sense of anticipation among its audience.The fact that the production is four and a half hours long sets the audience a challenge. How long will you last?
The programme note states ‘This is a campaign, not a play. This is not a theatre company it’s an organisation.’ THEATREclub are well known for their performance/activist style often taking on unpalatable topics such as the heroin epidemic and the sex work industry. However here they take on something much more contentious -the 1916 Rising, and the history of violent republicanism, namely through the IRA. The members of the company refuse to commemorate 1916, a statement which becomes almost like a chorus amid this post-dramatic and durational experience. The much utilised statement is met each time by a rousing round of applause from the company.
The audience make their way into the mostly vacant Samuel Beckett Theatre. There is a bar, a proscenium arch stage, a band, a set of tables, and a smattering of school style chairs. THEATREclub’s version of Sean O’ Casey’sThe Plough and the Stars appears sporadically onstage, but in truth most of the action takes place in the room among the audience. This action is being live directed by Dyas and O’ Connor who themselves appear in the performance. Decades of Irish republican history is presented over the four and a half hour duration of this performance. We move painstakingly from the social realities of Derry City in the 1960s, to the tragic events of Bloody Sunday in 1972, and stop at significant points throughout the Troubles – touching on the Hunger Strikes of the 1980s – finally culminating in the Omagh Bombing of 1998. Throughout these interactions a focus is placed by the company on human rights abusesperpetrated in the north of Ireland. There is a sense that the company are attempting to radicalise the audience somehow, but there is a tentative sense of irony surrounding some of the company’s interactions.
This production moves through a series of episodic sequences, and as the hours pass by this becomes less effective. HoweverIt’s Not Over still packs a hefty punch. The durational aspect of the performance forces the audience to engage with these uncomfortable histories and to live through their retellings in a way that is simultaneously traumatising and outraging. Although not for the fainthearted, the duration is a necessary component of this performance and there is no doubt that it is a unique performative experience. As for it being a piece of activism, this reviewer remains unconvinced, but perhaps the campaign is just getting started.
Runs until 16 October as part of the Dublin Theatre festival | Image: contributed