The History of the Troubles (According to my Da) by Martin Lynch

Reviewed by Colin Devine Socialist View No. 10, Spring 2003

THIS BLACK comedy, which is currently touring across the country, is an entertaining swipe at a host of Northern Ireland characters, many of whom are instantly recognisable.

Written by Lynch, and assisted by Conor Grimes and Alan McKee, both well known Belfast actors, the play is full of comedic references and deals with how the big events impacted on the lives of ordinary people.

It is narrated by Ivan Little, a well known face in Northern Ireland for his work as a journalist with Ulster Television over the last 20 or so years.

The play opens with the Belfast riots of 1969 as Gerry Courtney awaits the birth of his first child. The action soon moves on to the aftermath of those events, with the advent of internment and the incarceration of the three characters in the same wing of Long Kesh.

Fireball, whose presence is felt from the opening lines, is a hospital porter at the Royal, where Gerry's missus is having their child. He is the kind of character who has a great ability to completely blot out what is going on around him.

His innate ability to live in a fantasy world goes hand in hand with his enthusiasm for his favourite sport - darts. He constantly rabbits on about darts, much to the annoyance of big Gerry (Ivan Little) who can't stand darts.

Indeed, the three lads were scooped in a pub where Fireball had gone to organise a darts match and the other two were going to enquire about joining the IRA.

The play is interspersed with the music of the time, and of course, Gerry does a great Mick Jagger impersonation to the sound of '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'. Other well known songs of the era are also featured, and the passage of time is very cleverly put across.

The third character, Felix, played by Alan McKee, bursts onto the set on several occasions, declaring that the 'balloon is up'. Internment, the hunger strikes and other momentous events are all greeted with this time-honoured phrase.

Over and above the originality of the script, and the way Lynch attempts to get across the feeling of what it was like to be in the thick of it in the 70s and 80s particularly, credit must be given to McKee and Grimes.

Both of them play a multitude of characters, male and female. These characters go a long way toward painting an authentic picture of life in 70s and 80s Belfast.

The action goes right up to the ceasefires, the visit of Clinton and the various shenanigans of the Assembly over the last number of years. While not attempting to make any overtly political points, Lynch's play is as much a sociological observation of how the Troubles affected people's thinking, as anything else. The approach taken perfectly shows the diversity in how different individuals dealt with the entire situation.

Fireball, for example, would probably still have been obsessed by darts if he had lived in Saigon in the early 70's, and not Belfast. And Lynches ability to get the blackest of black humour from a difficult situation is once more strengthened by this, his latest production.

It was a sell-out at last year's Cathedral Arts Festival in Belfast and it's two-week run in the Grand Opera House has also drawn full houses virtually every night. This black comedy is well worth seeing, if it comes your way, make no mistake about it, your understanding of working class Belfast culture will be all the richer for the experience.

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