Finborough Theatre, London – until 16 May 2017
“He was like a real-life Morgan Freeman.”
Though it might not necessarily seem like it, I do sometimes miss plays – David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue being one such example from last year, a rare moment of me deciding that I didn’t want to see it (only partly because I’d pretty much had the shock aspect of it ruined). Ireland is now being acclaimed as “Northern Ireland’s boldest contemporary writer” though and so the Finborough have opted to revive his earlier play Everything Between Us in their Sunday/Monday/Tuesday slot.
After decades of conflict, both politically in terms of Ulster as a nation and personally for sisters Sandra and Teeni Richardson who haven’t spoken in a good few years, the notion of truth and reconciliation seems a noble if unlikely one. But as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Northern Ireland sets up shop in Stormont with politician Sandra representing her Protestant brethren, Teeni comes crashing back in her sister’s life to force negotiations on that level too.
Neil Bull’s production scarcely draws breath as Hurricane Teeni dominates the earlier action with her racial abuse, the vivid reasons for her absence from Sandra’s life, the darkly comic gaps in her knowledge due to this exile. But as she delves into personal history, into the complex childhood they shared with a loyalist paramilitary for a father, the vast issues of religion and politics can’t help but overshadow all, especially once Sandra finds room to chip in with her own experience.
The contrast in the two women is strongly played by Katrina McKeever’s vituperative Teeni and Lynsey-Anne Moffat’s more restained but no less deeply felt Sandra. And it only feels right that Ireland leaves so much still up in the air at the play’s close – as honourable the intentions behind truth and reconciliation are, the reality of how deeply entrenched the issues are means that resolution can feel but a dream. As such, the play can feel a bit of an uncomfortable watch, the impossibility of the situation making the laughter catch in the mouth.