Defender of the Faith
The problems inherent in Andy Arnold’s new production are almost all in the writing. Which is strange, because Stuart Carolan’s debut script, written in 2004, won awards and a transfer to Broadway on its first run.
It’s not that Carolan’s story of escalating tension between a father and son, both fighting in a rural, Border-bound sect of the UVF, isn’t compelling or original. Where he falls down is the execution: moments of tension are clagged up by exposition-heavy dialogue, there’s a fair bit of sub-Tarantino riffing which feels like a younger man’s approximation of how tough guys talk to each other, and the shock and punch of a perfectly-assembled climax is blunted immediately afterwards by a gauche, juvenile closing speech.
The production itself is not without merit. In deference to his weighty subject matter, Arnold pares back the direction so that the scenes unfold with often brutal realism. This starkness, buoyed by a set almost overbearingly cluttered with naturalistic detail, is necessary in order for us to fully appreciate the horror of the one climactic moment of violence the play throws up. The acting is also excellent; as Thomas, the son on whose doubt of his father the play pivots, Martin McCormick turns in an emotionally weighty performance, with strong support from Laurie Ventry as a conflicted farm worker. With less reverence and some judicious cutting of the script, this could be a first-class production.
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 28 Feb