Director: Nora Kelly Lester
Writer: Lauren-Shannon Jones
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
Questioning the legitimacy of remembered history, The Assassination of Brian Boru places its audience’s focus on the importance of a good story, even if that means leaving the truth behind. Directed by Nora Kelly Lester and written by Lauren-Shannon Jones, the merging of the two authorial voices succeeds in representing the tale of Brian Boru, and his demise, in an unusual but refreshing way.
Not steeped in historical fact, or trying to achieve the same, this performance focuses more on relationships, adventure and mystique in order to reach its end. The turbulent, but passionate fraternal relationship between Brodir (Andrew Kenny) and Ospak (Daithi Mac Suibhne), is the play’s main narrative. Followed by omens of ravens, falling swords and blood rain, the brothers are propelled to fight on two sides of The Battle of Clontarf.
Meeting on the battlefield, after the assassination of the High King Brian Boru, their final stories are told. Kenny and Mac Suibhne portray their belligerent Viking characters in a way that is hard, soft, brutal and kind all at the same time. It is the depth of these characters that encourage the audience to invest in the story of these two brothers, and allow themselves to look past historical fact and engage in a new and, untold tale.
Although not reinventing the wheel, the two men drive the play on with a great pace. Despite being the play’s namesake, Brian Boru (Shane Connaughton) is merely the catalyst, not the focus. Never appearing onstage, Boru is portrayed through a cinematic projection that unfortunately does not fit with the piece. This foray into cinema just doesn’t work with the 11th century landscape.
Jones’ script is strong enough without this and Boru’s character would have worked even despite the absence of its named character. Despite this, the set works well, conjuring up a feeling of the ancient Ireland that is needed.
Designed by Fionn McShane and accentuated by the lighting (Cathy O Carroll) and sound design (Dylan Tonge Jones) the set moves from high seas, friendly landscapes and fiery battlefield easily and swiftly.
In the wake of The Decade of Commemoration, stuffy and overtly historical reimaginings are rife across Ireland, but The Assassination of Brian Boru succeeds in bringing a good story back to the Irish stage. Not focusing on commemorating but illuminating the wonder of a good story, Lester and Jones have succeeded in providing their audience with just that, a good story, and a great way to spend an evening.
Runs until 19th April.