City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Bruce in Ireland, Assembly Roxy, Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 03 November 2015

Show Details
Assembly Roxy
Black Dingo Productions
Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir (director), Ben Blow (writer),Tom Oakes (music and sound design)
Chris Allan (Robert the Bruce / O'Reilly), Douglas Garry (Dominie / MacDonnell), Matthew Jebb (Wishart / O'Neall), Gerry Kielty (Edward Bruce), Kirsty Eila McIntyre (Failtrail)
Running time: 

Edward Bruce's (brother of the more famous Robert) campaigns in Ireland receive blank looks or shuffled feet when mentioned in Scotland, so Black Dingo Productions are to be congratulated in taking on ‘The Bruce in Ireland’, if only for raising a spectre many Scots have forgotten or would prefer to.

It’s a real pity, therefore, that Ben Blow’s script does neither the subject nor the company much justice. Some of the outline of history is here – Robert Bruce, triumphant after Bannockburn, dispatches his only surviving brother, Edward, to assist the O’Neill Earl of Ulster and other Irish rulers against the common enemy Edward III of England – said Edward being engaged in asserting his rights to the French crown at the time - although this is perhaps the least complicated element of the tangled web of international relations at the time.

Despite Chris Allan’s best efforts as a pragmatic and canny Robert Bruce, pitched against a somewhat too complicated brother in Gerry Kielty’s Edward Bruce, and those of other cast members, Blow’s script trudges through the bogs of Ireland toward an end that remained inconclusive and unsatisfactory for this reviewer, who at times, very likely in the manner of Bruce’s soldiers, wondered why such effort seemed to produce so little outcome.

It is, admittedly, difficult to pluck theatricality from the density of wordiness from which this script suffers, but one longed for a spark that might light up the darkness and point us in whatever direction and to what end might have been intended, but alas, none such came.

Whether Blow intends us to draw comparison with more contemporary events eluded this reviewer, or whether this was, to quote the late Seamus Heaney a case of the native Irish being ‘…stood upon, end of simple history lesson’, but in either case the single female character’s experience of exploitation seemed a case of exploitation in itself, and another instance of a cast with some potential doing their level best with the play as it was wrote.

To be fair, Blow can turn a phrase, and may well find a means to do better in the future, but ‘The Bruce in Ireland’ felt as if the writer had too much to say that was not about the play.

Runs til 5 November