DramaDublin Theatre FestivalIrelandReview

Green and Blue – Civic Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Laurence McKeown
Director: Paula McFeteridge
Reviewer: Marina Ní Dhubháin

Security force members are notoriously private. Particularly so when the professional role involves long-term, sustained exposure to life-threatening events. Of those individuals who spent the period of The Troubles policing the international border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, very little is known. This makes the new production Green and Blue from Kabosh, both historically significant and deliciously intriguing. Based on the product of six years of factual story-gathering from former members of the RUC and the Gardaí Síochána, Laurence McKeown has crafted a drama of substantial insight and revelation.

Two men on stage, one metre apart, facing the audience. One man in Garda Siochána blue, the other in the dark green of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In a series of intercut monologues, each man considers the circumstances which led to his deployment to the border, that line in a field which was experienced so differently by the communities on either side.

Garda Eddie O’Halloran (James Doran) is a light-hearted culchie, a Cork-man-abroad, with a line of blarney which serves him well as he assimilates into the local community, south of the border. On the northern side, Constable David McCabe (Vincent Higgins) endures a manifestly contrast existence. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, his demeanour is uptight and rigid, a product of working each day in an area where he is seen as a conspicuous target. McCabe has no relations with the community, he cannot visit the shops, the post-office, the pubs other than to perform searches. On those days off when he doesn’t visit his wife, he just stays in the barracks and ‘eats, sleeps and shites’.

A case of a dog worrying sheep in South East Fermanagh offers an unlikely cross-border opportunity for initial communication.

First contact is a comic series of confusions and mix-ups. It appears that the political border is the least of the barriers between these men, who now struggle with a firewall of accent, culture, history and ideology. As a tentative friendship develops, the easy stereotypes of the earlier part of the play fall away and a more intricate characterisation is explored. Issues around loneliness, professional isolation, abandonment and grief are considered in a distinctly masculine context. The sadness of O’Halloran bringing a newspaper to his local pub in order to disguise his social isolation is paralleled in McCabe’s poignant dream of ever feeling secure enough to have a local. They meet face-to-face only once in a climactic scene where the palpable release that comes from being heard and understood, is abruptly cut short.

Both Doran and Higgins work well together. They play comfortably with the ironic clichés at the beginning but appear to relish the challenge as the unfolding narrative demands that their respective roles become more nuanced and complex. Stuart Marshall’s set is basic and minimal, as befits a touring production. Long strips of plastic offer an opaque surface to a restless series of projected images, an aesthetically attractive and thematically coherent representation of this volatile setting. Director Paula McFetridge creates a template of still images which foreground the language. Her approach is very much in the style of a traditional verbatim production; however, while Green and Blue was constructed from the raw fragments of memory and experience, the testimonial material was funnelled through the fictionalised lives of O’Halloran and McCabe. In the process,  McKeown drew on those threads of memory which privileged moments of shared humanity, that human impulse to connect with another.

This production is a life-affirming celebration of the end of the dark days of hard border control between Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is ironic, and more than a little sad, to consider that, post-Brexit, we are about to turn around and crank up that whole hot mess all over again.

Runs until 29 October 2016 | Image: Contributed

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