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Time Out
The Bedsit
The Tabard
12 November 1996
 

An IRA gunman awaits his fate in a London bedsit

The emotional accuracy of Neil Jordan’s film “Michael Collins” is tragically demonstrated in an Ireland still weighing up compromising diplomacy against dogmatic gunfire, a country in which there’s no such thing as the abstract political but only the complexities of the personal. In the context of Jordan’s powerful film and the painstaking crawl towards change in Ireland, Pail Sellar’s new play makes it mark: with a Republican lament it invokes the failure of the 1916 Easter Rising and then shows the futility of like fighting like.

In a “pokey” London bedsit, Brady sits by a phone he doesn’t answer, composes rhyming poetry which doesn’t get published and feeds his Alsatian. An old dog himself, there’s something edgy in his relationship with the aggressive Dempster and the sinister Anton, two young Irishman who come to visit on Guy Fawkes Night - significantly a celebration of a terrorist who tried to blow up the English Government. For these are IRA gunmen - of two generations - and Brady would have been a hero to the young bloods had he not retreated into the shadows. He’s about to be punished for the betrayal of his - of their - past.

Sellar is a promising writer: on the one hand his sustained dramatic tension from the recitation of numbers over the phone, which could be a coded bomb warning, is stunning. On the other, the symbolic painting of a hunt without a fox probably looked better on the page. But with sharp performances from Andrew Maclean and Cliff Hylands and from James Ellis as the wily Brady, Sellar will learn to trust his theatrical instinct rather than just the writing. A highly charged political play, then, because the personal stakes are so high.

Simon Reade