Theatre review: Over the Wire, Glasgow

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A GRIPPING, brutal, at times bleakly funny exploration of institutionalism and paranoia, this intense psychological piece from writer Seamas Keenan is an impressive calling card.

Over the Wire

Tron, Glasgow

* * * *

Set in Long Kesh in 1974 after the burning of their prison huts by Irish Republican prisoners, the incarcerated inmates scratch out their existence amid the rubble of their yard.

With the core cast on stage at all times, the play is set in the round, the audience positioned in single rows around four sides of a cage, as if at a zoo. Helicopter searchlights dart across the action, other yards make ambiguous attempts to communicate and their British captors scream abuse at them.

Are they poisoning the food? Are they spiking the medication of Barry (Martin Bradley), who is prone to hallucinations? And, crucially, is there a spy in their midst? With power shifting between committed party man Dee (Jim Lecky) and grizzled, experienced foot soldier Lucas (a wonderfully animated but inscrutable and enigmatic Pat Lynch), the pair alternately bully, cajole and torture the unstable Barry, cocksure young idealist Dutch (Andy Doherty) and jaded cynic Colin (Micheál McDaid).

As an ensemble, the group are excellent, superbly capturing the breakdown of individual trust and sympathy through fidelity to a cause. At time,s the drama moves dizzyingly quickly, from pathos, through comradely humour, to shocking violence. Yet the details of the prisoner’s desperate inner lives, and indeed their lost lives on the outside, are tenderly drawn.