Chronicles of Long Kesh demands much of its audience. We are asked to watch the effect that decades of incarceration can have, not only on inmates but also on their families and on the people charged with watching them. As it is set in the infamous prison in Northern Ireland known as Long Kesh, we are also asked to witness acts of protest, divides based on sectarianism and harsh forms of violence and brutality.
And though it asks a great deal, it rewards the audience in abundance with a thrilling play that is extremely moving, at times funny and constantly engaging with its theatricality. Though the play is based on historic facts, it is far more interested in the human condition. We watch people try to live the best they can, sometimes in the most inhumane conditions. Music is also used, not only as a form of comic relief but also as a way of making moments all the more poignant.
We are introduced to a collection of characters played by six actors. These actors take on a principle role each but also fill in for a collection of smaller roles, serve as narrators and sing songs. Though each actor greatly impresses, not only with their individual performance skills but also in their physicality, it is in watching all six as a solid ensemble that is most thrilling; with their focus and onstage support of each other, they quite simply make the greatest ensemble I’ve seen in some time.
Sometimes grim, other times funny but always compelling and affecting, Chronicles of Long Kesh is one of the best productions, not only at the Festival but of this year. It is rare for straight dramas to get a standing ovation; this not only got one for the performance I saw but also reportedly scores one with each performance. Do not miss it.
Originally written for Onstage Scotland.
Playing at the Assembly Hall until August 31.
Filed under: Edinburgh Festival 2009 |