Quietly at the Soho Theatre
Poor Robert the barman just wants to watch Poland, his home country, beat Northern Ireland in the football match on tv, but regular punter Jimmy has other plans for his lonely pub that evening. Football and barman alike are rapidly muted as Jimmy meets with an old enemy for the very first time.
Jimmy (Patrick O’Kane) has been sought out by Ian (Declan Conlon) in order to establish a long overdue peace between the two, following a bomb attack that occurred in the very same pub in Belfast, in 1974. In their 50s now, the pair were just 16 when the attack happened – one the culprit, the other a victim. Only now, in the light of each other’s stories, can the two Irishmen fully appreciate what happened that day, because as Ian implores, “there is more to truth than facts”.
Under Jimmy Fay’s direction the two stories unfold in alternate bars of contorted rage, suppressed pain and heavy, wearisome guilt as gradually they come to reach a level of understanding. A delicate and complex topic, writer Owen McCafferty avoids any sense of indulgent sensationalism or easy resolution. The peace comes gradually and furtively, amid charged releases of emotion and suppressed contortions of pain and anger. The silence in between is special, charged with a loud but steady tension from the actors’s control and complete absorption; they are grown men after all, and it is the long period of reflection and suffering that has strengthened them against cold, hard prejudice.
Both O’Kane and Conlon tread their footsteps in perfect character, holding and relenting their varying emotions at just the right pitch; Ian’s guilt and patient determination contrasts wonderfully with Jimmy’s burning pain. The tolerant barman Robert (Robert Zawadzki) is a comforting presence in the picture, embodying the perfect balance of compassionate awareness and considerate neutrality of the racial outsider. But as Jimmy and Ian’s episode ends, the bigotry and prejudice that infected their lives seems to be creeping into Robert’s… Ever do the great tragedies of history repeat themselves.
Quietly is at the Soho Theatre until 22nd June 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Quietly here: