Ten rounds

By Carlo Gebler

Reviewed by SHAUN TRAYNOR

The playwright says the play was inspired by his reading of the Ombudsman’s report on the Omagh bombing but also by the sexy French film La Ronde. Strange how opposites attract, but then I first saw the X-certificated La Ronde at the old Mayfair cinema in Belfast as an under-age schoolboy, there was an anxiety even then, of being caught. The film was about a series of sexual liaisons all linked together by the possibility of participants catching syphilis. The playwright here has blended Northern Ireland politics and sex in a deadly metaphoric way.

There are a lot of laughs in the play but because the undercurrent is about the human tragedy of Omagh and also about a possible cover-up of information, it is difficult to laugh easily. The play is a carousel of liaisons upon which the participants – unknowingly – have that common link; a terrorist, intimations of bomb-making immediately prior to Omagh, and sexual needs.

The acting is superb. Mind you it should be, for in the cast we have the cream of Irish acting talent and let’s now go through them one by one: forget Nicole Kidman, forget Jerry Hall and welcome Victoria Smurfit to a number of sexy cameo roles – her performances were convincing and smoulderingly sexy when required.

Clare Holman also played a sexy lady, slightly older perhaps and ever so much more respectable on the surface but in the bedroom an impatient tigress; her lover was played ingenuously by Michael Colgan, not a well written part, but he just about got away with it. Tim Woodward as her husband was utterly convincing as the experienced journalist going through some kind of male man-o-pause, tarnished as well by the politics of Northern Ireland. This was the best written part.

And so to Des McAleer, playing bomb-maker and scruffy, unreconstructed academic. As always Mr McAleer brings presence and experience to the stage.

Mairead McKinley played the hooker, the hooker whom two significant participants visited, therefore occupying a pivotal position in the plot. Her acting was brilliant and the way she played the part and was directed in it was (again) utterly convincing and had enormous dignity, this was a really nice person, or do I mean - what is a nice actress like you doing in a play like this?

Well we know what Brid Brennan was doing: giving one of the most riveting performances I have ever seen; well Brid is always like this, what a Lady Macbeth!

Stephen Boxer, playing the English MI5 officer opposite Ms McKinley and Brid Brennan in different scenes, gave a wonderful performance of Brit nervousness and exhausted tension.

I thought Mr Boxer’s performance was the finest of the night.

With all these changes of scene – 10 rounds – the set must have posed problems but there were seamless transitions from designer Poppy Mitchell. The set - and the direction by Nicholas Kent - gave all of the play, and the evening, great dignity.

For preview performances, there were five pound tickets for the first 100 customers which I think is a blessed initiative; too late now for this one but bear it in mind for next time.

10 Rounds at The Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn High Rd London NW6 until 19th Oct 02. Box office 020 7328 1000.