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Sunday 4 December 2016

Review: Monsters, Dinosaurs, Ghosts

Monsters, Dinosaurs, Ghosts
Monsters, Dinosaurs, Ghosts

Sitting on his couch, a duvet wrapped around his skinny frame, the man they call Nig should have been left alone.

But then, he left the front door of his ground-floor flat wide open - what else did he expect? Soon, there will be a gang of hoods outside. But not before Wee Joe pops in for a visit with a bottle of vodka and a proposition.

This is present-day Northern Ireland. Nig and Wee Joe used to be soldiers. An IRA tattoo on Nig's left forearm tells us everything we need to know about where this broken, deeply troubled individual's loyalties lie.

Indeed, he is haunted by the ghosts of those whose lives he took during The Troubles.

Wee Joe, on the other hand, has come out the other side of cognitive behavioural therapy. He also survived a suicide attempt. There's talk of one last operation - unfinished business, even. And Wee Joe wants Nig's gun.

HUMOUR

Playwright Jimmy McAleavey's absorbing tale of two former soldiers bound by their monstrous past, and divided by what the future holds, is a gloomy one.

And yet, it's also a twisted comedy of sorts, its heated, often intense, set-up lending itself to unlikely moments of deliciously dark humour.

There are other characters in there - Tommy (an impressive Steve Blount), a former colleague of Nig's, and an authoritative figure that doesn't mince his words, and 'L', a cocky, hip-hop-loving, drugged-up teen, representing a new wave of war in Northern Ireland. But Monsters, Dinosaurs, Ghosts always comes back to Nig.

Nig is the conscience and, in Lalor Roddy's gripping portrayal of a man wracked with guilt and remorse, Nig is the star of this show.

Eventually, we move away from the couch and into a warehouse, where Wee Joe (David Pearse) and L (an exuberant Ryan McParland) set about orchestrating a devastating bomb attack.

This is where McAleveay and director Caitriona Mc Laughlin go all out with their cast, and there are some powerful exchanges and scraps to be had.

Nig will end up double-crossing his old pal, and Wee Joe is keeping his own secrets - how long will it be before these men see through each other's lies?

It's a complex affair, David Pearse (perfect comic timing) is the perfect yin to Roddy's distressed yang. True, it often sacrifices its integrity and weight for frequent bouts of forced melodrama, and the script could benefit from a slight rewrite, but there's an outstanding rapport between these actors.

A better set, and a little sharpening here and there, tone-wise, and this is one production that could go a long, long way.

Running until June 27 HHHII

> CHRIS WASSER

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