‘Cyprus Avenue’ review

Theatre, Drama
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(3user reviews)
Cyprus Avenue, Royal Court 2019

David Ireland’s comedy about a man who mistakes his granddaughter for Gerry Adams is back, with added political bite

If you haven’t heard of David Ireland, you really should have. In recent years, the Belfast-based playwright has become one of British theatre's most distinctive and controversial voices with a series of scabrous, scandalising plays, including ‘Everything Between Us’, ‘The End of Hope’ and last summer’s Edinburgh Fringe conversation-starter ‘Ulster American’ (surely arriving in London soon). They’re all as dark and funny as anything by Martin McDonagh, but they have an injection of absurdity that’s entirely Ireland’s, too.

A great big syringeful of it, when it comes to ‘Cyprus Avenue’, his 2016 Royal Court hit, directed by Vicky Featherstone and returning now to Sloane Square. Transferring to the larger Downstairs theatre, its shock value is perhaps slightly diluted but still pretty much the same. Over 100 minutes, the play follows Eric Miller, an outrageously bigoted, resolutely Unionist man, as he struggles with the outlandish conviction that his newborn granddaughter is in fact Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams.

It goes to some pretty weird places, from an interview in a psychologist’s office, to a hallucinatory encounter with a UVF paramilitary, to a chilling climactic scene in Eric’s living room that has echoes of Edward Bond’s ‘Saved’, but it takes you with it all the way. This is largely thanks to an extraordinary central performance from Stephen Rea – all shambling shoulders, flapping hands and wriggling fingers, ornately articulate racist slurs spilling freely from his mouth.

Ireland definitely indulges himself at times – some of the savage speeches seem more overwritten than they did in 2016 – but if ‘Cyprus Avenue’ has lost some of its tautness in the intervening years, it has gained enormous resonance. The whole thing is a silly, almost satirical, send-up of where prejudice and nationalism and insecurity about identity can eventually lead, and that shit doesn’t stop at the Giant’s Causeway.

‘Cyprus Avenue’ is about a warped and twisted Unionist in Belfast but the point could just as easily be made in Brexit Britain. It’s a bruising play, touched by brilliance.

By: Fergus Morgan

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Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

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LiveReviews|3
1 person listening

Some interesting writing but if it takes casually killing a couple of female characters and slamming a baby to death in a garbage bag to have impact maybe there’s a better way to spend your night.

tastemaker

This is a both hilarious & horrendous. Stephen Rea gives a magnificent performance. It is a simple tale of a Belfast man who believes his grandchild is Gerry Adams.............

Be prepared to be offended.
Tastemaker

Wow. This was an incredibly disturbing but powerful play that also managed to have me laughing through a big majority of it. Incredibly well acted, the character of Eric gave a very vivid and anecdotal soliloquy that is uncomfortable to listen to at times but really addresses the main themes of the play, unhealthy patriotism, paranoia, conscience and power struggle. I thoroughly enjoyed this production but at times it did become a bit too painful to watch.