Shall Roger Casement Hang? (4 stars)

Drama exploring the enigmatic Irish rebel's incarceration

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Shall Roger Casement Hang?

credit: John Johnston

Peter Arnott's new script, presented as part of the Tron's Mayfesto season, is a taut patchwork of political intrigue, psychology and human frailty. Fitting in with the festival’s marking of the anniversary of the 1916 Irish uprising, it examines the prosecution of Sir Roger Casement – Irish Republican, Knight of the British Empire, homosexual and traitor.

Roger Casement's arrest for treason in 1916 following his thwarted attempt to overthrow British rule in Ireland is written in an unhurried, slow-burning style. Benny Young's portrayal of Casement is complex – he is a gaunt, haunted figure who moves between wisecracks, vague pronouncements and lucid statements about Irish independence.

His interrogator, Scotsman Captain Hall (Stephen Clyde) begins his questioning with a disquieting stillness. He moves to brutal racism and homophobia after news of the Easter Sunday uprising filters through from Dublin, as he discusses Casement's sympathy for African slaves in the Congo where he served as a British diplomat, and diary entries concerning dalliances with male soldiers. Eventually, he's not above violence to break down his prisoner's resistance.

There's a febrile atmosphere throughout, with Carys Hobbs' claustrophobic set and Kim Beveridge's chilling AV design providing the backbone. Andy Arnold's direction is relentless in its unflinching attention to the intimate combat between the gentleman revolutionary and his colonial nemesis. Balancing the political and the personal, Shall Roger Casement Hang? is a moving and complicated dissection of an often ignored aspect of the path to Irish self-determination.

Tron, Glasgow, run ended.

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