Sunday, 21 October 2007

REVIEW: "A Night In November"

(Keeping this one quick since I still have to put together this week's news update...)

The conflict between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has expressed itself in countless methods over the centuries: war, terrorism, sport, and the stage. These last two comprised last night's performance of A Night in November at Trafalgar Studios.

Written in 1995 by Belfast-born Marie Jones, Night tells the tale of Kenneth McAllister, a protestant dole clerk in Belfast living a hum-drum life complete with the underlying racism that comes with the Irish divide: checking his car for bombs, lording his acceptance into a golf club over his Catholic boss, etc. until one night when he accompanies his father in law, an open racist, to a football match between the British and Republican Irelands. When the crowd turns hostile and begins invoking slogans in praise of terrorist acts against the Catholic Irish, Kenneth has an epiphany and begins to reassess his life from his family to what it means to be "Irish" in the face of the 1993-1994 World Cup.

The role of Kenneth, along with everybody else, is played by comedian Patrick Kielty. Mr. Kielty does his best with the material, putting on all sorts of voices and mannerisms while running around the stage like a madman, but he is let down by the play itself, which relies solely on exposition and narration with occasional asides to move the story. While this is a flaw inherent with one-actor shows, the introspective material leads to a rather dull play with some choice moments - Kenneth's trip to New York for the match itself and his spiritual awakening are particularly brilliant, but the peaks are few and far between. Cutting the play from 110 minutes over two acts to 95 or 100 minutes without an interval would have helped greatly.

Given that this piece is set at the same time as Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Jones has chosen to give us a more personal look at the Irish situation, rather than a look at the big picture of Northern Ireland in the early 90's. However, Jones lacks McDonagh's command over language, and her play fails to rise to championship standards as a result.

Where: Trafalgar Studios 1
When: Until 1 December, M-Sa 7:30 PM, W/Sa 2:30 PM
Cost: £29-40
Concessions: The usual crowds can get £25 tickets day of excepting Saturday evenings.
RZ Unofficial "Worth Paying": £10 for Kielty's performance. Add £5 if you're really into pieces about football (proper footie) or the works on the Irish conflict are of particular interest (as it is to the RZ).
RZ Other Notes: A Night in November may have been a great example of how an audience can kill a show. The RZ saw it the same night as the Rugby World Cup finals where England lost against South Africa, and was curious, especially during the interval, how many people were wishing they could be watching the game at the pub instead. Given that the play is billed as a comedy, the lack of major laughs was noticeable. The RZ also wonders how much of the material went over his head due to being American - perhaps the work is too Irish (even Northern Irish) for him to have fully appreciated it.

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