The History of the Troubles
(accordin’ to my Da)

by MARTIN LYNCH & GRIMES AND McKEE

REVIEWED BY SHAUN TRAYNOR

Grimes and McKee are a Northern Ireland comedy duo, Martin Lynch is a serious community playwright; they have got together to present a really funny skip through thirty years of bigotry, murderous and seditious mayhem.

The only time it gets really chill is when Maggie Thatcher is mentioned alongside the death of Bobby Sands. Apart from that it is all a bit of a romp.

What holds it together is the central performance of Ivan Little as Joe-Anybody, just an ordinary guy wanting to get on with his life but living in troubled-times Belfast. He has a most dignified stage presence, in spite of the fact he is usually dressed in a cardigan and seems to be ambling across his own front room to get another cup of cocoa. He is a family man who doesn’t want any trouble.

The two rascals round him, Grimes and McKee make up for such sloth. There are some wonderful impersonations of Belfast characters, the orderly at the morgue of the Royal Hospital, the darts expert in the local community centre, the soccer expert, special field: English premier league, the inveterate losing gambler; not for nothing (and to this day) is the pub beside The Crown and Liquor Saloon called The Beaten Docket.

As years pass, politically, things get more grim, but the trio on stage keep pumping the irony. There is a wonderful scene where – after the hunger strikes when many Catholics instinctively turned toward the IRA – Eedjit 1 (Grimes) and Eedjit 2 (Ivan) go along to the Recruiting Officer of the local branch of the IRA (McKee). Their applications are along the grounds of “Yes, we want to join up, we really do, but not for anything violent you understand, maybe just a role in the background or something in public relations...?”

Each tiny vignette is hilarious and I do rejoice with the people of “Norn Iron” who can make such irony and humour out of their tragedy, who can rub two matches of brains together in a gale of windswept stupidity. It’s not, after all, wholly of their own making, yet each generation is left holding the basin full of boke the previous generation has left behind.

Again toward the end there is another really funny scene where the protagonists more or less admit they are in serious denial about what is going on. How else can you cope? This is what I find in my many visits home. Folks back home in Belfast reckon it isn’t all that bad, there are so many positive things and they keep talking about other parts of the world where worse atrocities happen. Worse than crucifixion? Worse than Holy Cross? In this final comic scene it is found that the entire population is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and so compensation begins to roll in, court cases, psychiatrists, tribunals, thousands of pounds! Says Eedjit 1 to Eedjit 2 – “That’s the great thing about War, Everybody benefits!”

Maybe not such idiots after all, just vultures picking up what’s left of humanity’s meat. Northern Ireland needs to be included into Ireland – and into Europe – a simple leap into a visible light.

The History of the Troubles (according to my Da) at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, London NW6 until 28 June 2003
Tickets £9 – £16 Box Office 020 7328 1000