The 4th Country at Park Theatre
First performed in 2020 at the Vault Festival, The 4th Country is a drama set in Derry-Londonderry that deals with the challenges of living in contemporary Northern Ireland and having to carry the weight of collective national traumas. This is the story by Kate Reid of Niamh and her brother Conor, two young people dealing with the aftermath of their family’s connection to the Bloody Sunday massacres. Created by female-led theatre company Plain Heroines, the play also speaks up about the practical and psychological difficulties inflicted on women due to the restrictive abortion laws that only saw the procedure decriminalised in late 2019.
The play begins in a conventional fashion, with the actors introducing the setting and political connotations. Soon enough, however, they step back from the story and break the fourth wall. They discuss among themselves how to best tell this complex tale, and wonder if they can amend its ending or the tragedy is inevitable. This double layer in the narrative is intended to actively invite reflection and add depth to the otherwise linear story. While it definitely achieves a sense of collective involvement and responsibility, it somewhat slows down the momentum, as these interjections lack dynamism.
The 4th Country is admirable in its purpose as it raises pressing themes whilst giving a valuable insight into Northern Ireland’s sociopolitical climate. There are touching moments in which the characters and their struggles really come alive, but the dialogues that lead up to the salient points are not as gripping. Most scenes are slow burners that become powerful when their purpose is finally revealed. From a dramatic perspective the play feels quite disjointed overall. Still, this is a production that deserves praise as it passes important messages and it does so effectively.
Photo: Mark Douet
The Fourth Country is at Park Theatre from 12th January until 5th February 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a video about the making of the production here: