Ayrshire-based writer David Hutchison’s drama Too Long the Heart is set in a time after the Irish peace process when feelings were still raw in some quarters. It was first performed in 2013 by Edinburgh company Siege Perilous and now appears in a new extended production from new theatre company Awkward Stranger run by director Andy Corelli that aims ‘to experiment with drama texts, collaborate with art forms and look at things anew’.
Two lovers turned amateur terrorists Marty (Des O’Gorman) and Caitlin (Catriona Conaty) arrive at a remote cottage somewhere in County Cork with their captive, a man called Lawson (Steve Hay) that they believe to be a former Major in the British army.
Lawson insists he is the wrong man, claiming to be a history teacher who has a cousin in the army. But Lawson wears many hats. He is a Scot (though certainly not the anglified one that the script implies); a Gaelic speaking Catholic; a Yeats quoting Irish historian; a teacher in a Glasgow school and though his actual identity remains vague, it is the character’s cool command in what would be a terrifying ordeal for Joe Soap that is the tell. He quickly picks up which of his captors is focussed but nervous, and which is just nervous and capitalises on the weakness.
The gun-toting ingénus pace around waiting for word from The Man who appears just when things seem to be going very wrong. Ian Sexon reprises his role as the swaggering ex IRA commander Dermot Brady played with an assured menace that we see crumbling to fear and raw calculating self-preservation when things fall apart.
Projections add a different perspective this time round with inner thoughts made manifest on screen as well as footage and images of past conflicts to augment the drama on stage. An attempt at some subtle screen images distract from the ‘quickie’ sex scene at the start that is indeed mercifully quick and the increasing flames at the cottage window are a distracting means of letting the audience know that the heat is on.
Beautifully played live music adds to the atmosphere after a track from The Undertones sets the Irish tone with a fine rendition of The Mountains of Mourne acting as finale. Corelli directed and acted in the original production but concentrates his skill on directing alone this time round with his usual skill.
This tense play, is so steeped in specifics of the Troubles, that it fails to stand as the universal metaphor for the perils of holding bitterness; of not letting go and moving on. As one of Hutchison’s lines says, being “crippled by boulders of the past”.
10, 11 and 12 November, 7pm