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The Shadow of a Gunman
by Sean O'Casey

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
3 18 November
2006

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Cast List

Donal Davoren Michael Glenn Murphy
Seamus Shields
Ciaran McIntyre
Maguire / The Auxiliary
Daniel Abelson
Mr Mulligan / Mr Gallogher
Philip Gaudin
Minnie Powell
Terri Chandler
Tommy Owens
Aidan O'Hare
Mrs Henderson
Julia Dearden
Mrs Grigson
Cara Kelly
Adolphus Grigson
Fintan McKeown
with Martin O'Neill, Alan Ward and Paul Williams.


Directed by Phillip Breen
Designed by Colin Richmond
Lighting Design
er
Stuart Jenkins
Composer
Matilda Brown



Selected Reviews

 
The Guardian
Mark Fisher

Time and space are the distinguishing qualities of Philip Breen's staging of the Sean O'Casey classic. He takes two diversions from the traditional presentation of the Dublin tenement tragedy; both are risky, and both pay off. The first is to play the two-act drama without an interval; the second is to break the mood of naturalism with a set without walls, the furniture of Seumas Shields' rented room fronting an open stage.
 
By dropping the interval, the director intensifies the play's day-in-the-life trajectory. We move seamlessly from the banter of the early scenes between salesman Shields and his room-mate Donal Davoren the poet mistaken for an IRA fighter passing through Donal's flirtation with Minnie Powell, the Republican romantic from upstairs, and on to the midnight conversation interrupted by a blast of gunfire and a British army raid.
 
It means that, instead of kicking off act two with a blast of energy, Breen takes the pace down to a soporific night-time whisper. In doing so, he risks lulling us into sleepy indifference as Michael Glenn Murphy's self-contained Donal and Ciaran McIntyre's blustering Seumas mutter to each other across the bedroom. The strategy pays dividends, however, as the gunfire erupts, forcing us to sit up and confront the unpredictable terror of life during wartime.
 
Soon after the arrival of the army auxiliaries, the spaciousness of Colin Richmond's set also begins to make sense. Initially it is in the long sprints the terrified neighbours must make to reach the apartment, underscoring their sense of panic. Most powerfully, it is in the soldiers' upturning of the flat, leaving a desolate landscape backed by a defiant slogan on the back wall 'We serve neither king nor Kaiser, but Ireland' and emphasising O'Casey's continued political relevance.
 


The Times

'Phillip Breen's first class production... captures our hearts'
 


The Sunday Herald

'The Glasgow Citizens may have a long association with 20th century Irish drama, but one can't help that director Phillip Breen had more than an eye on the current events in the middle east...O'Casey sketches with his dark satirical wit a foreign occupation resented deeply by the people, a bloody and counter-productive attempt by the occupiers to quell rebellion through through repression and an insurrection that attempts to be equal in ferocity to the power it is trying to expel...the production contains a brilliantly staged, emotionally affecting recreation of a brutal British army raid on a Dublin tenement... In the ever excellent Ciaran McIntryre and in the rest of Phillip Breen's fine cast you can hear a bible-black comic reflection upon the tragedies of the present.'
 


Metro

'Director Phillip Breen opts for a bleak, cold-eyed approach in reining in the second act, one that chimes with Ireland's troubles to come and today's climate of the war on terror, where bomb factories and death in the name of any cause are rightly viewed as no laughing matter... a production of entertaining clarity.'

 

The Scotsman

'Phillip Breen's new Citizens production is a fine, dark, murky and intense affair, played without an interval'
  

The List

'The Citz is to be congratulated for making theatre which speaks from the point of view of the colonised, and doesn't render them as shadowy victims of greater powers... Phillip Breen's The Shadow of a Gunman is the most courageous piece of programming in recent times'

 
BRIEF BUT POWERFUL REVIVAL
by Timothy Ramsden

At first, it looks typically Citz. Sean O’Casey’s shared tenement-room setting becomes an open stage, a huge brick wall at its rear, half-visible words across it. But Colin Richmond’s design perfectly complements Philip Breen’s production, which finds vigour and humanity in the characters’ fears and illusions.

Michael Glenn Murphy is the would-be poet his neighbours admiringly take for an IRA hitman, while Cara Kelly gives unusual prominence to the neighbour Mrs Grigson in her patient attempts to manage her husband, the drunken Protestant boor Adolphus, while keeping up respectable pretences. It’s fitting she finally appears like a black Virgin-figure standing with news of Minnie Powell’s fate, as Donal and his room-mate Seumas (Ciaran McIntyre, excellent) kneel in grief or prayer.

Murphy and Kelly were the heart of last year’s outstanding Citz revival of Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney; they bring equal strength here. Donal is someone around whom things happen; his sexual interest in Minnie encourages her to build patriotic dreams around her image of him, while his incapacity for action keeps leading him back to Shelley, a poet whose rebellious idealism had an influence hard now to imagine.

The stage’s openness reflects both the huddled tenement world with its limited privacy, and the vulnerability clear as the Black-and-Tans search the building, gratuitously wrecking everything. Eventually it allows Stuart Jenkins’ lighting to reveal the patriotic assertion on the rear wall.

Breen points up the comedy inherent in people’s illusions, not only at obvious places like the reading of Mr Gallogher’s letter to the IRA, but in Minnie’s excuse for visiting Donal. Terri Chandler is hardly the “poor little Minnie Powell” described, but convincingly gives the young woman a strong vitality.

All this, with Donal and Seumas’s hushed nocturnal conversation in the central scene (especially finely played), illuminates both O’Casey’s awareness of ridiculous, empty ideals and his sympathy for people in a world where, as Seumas says with Falstaffian insight, talk of gunmen dying for the people covers the reality that people die for the gunmen. Breen and his company ensure the play’s brevity is far from making it a slight piece.

 

 
 
 Photo: Richard Campbell
 

  Photo: Richard Campbell
 

 Photo: Richard Campbell
 

Photo: Richard Campbell
 

 Photo: Richard Campbell
 

Photo: Richard Campbell
 

 Photo: Richard Campbell
 

Photo: Richard Campbell
 

  Photo: Richard Campbell
 

 Photo: Richard Campbell
 

 Photo: Richard Campbell
 

 Photo: Richard Campbell
 

  Photo: Richard Campbell
 

  Photo: Richard Campbell
  
  

 
 

 
 

 
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