Cyprus Avenue – Tron Theatre

Written by David Ireland

Directed by Andy Arnold

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The cautionary content warnings which come alongside Tron Theatre’s production of David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue are not to be ignored. This is stated more for those unfamiliar with Ireland’s award-winning productions, which range widely in their use of violence, humour, and the discomfiting to drive home aspects of identity, faith, nationalism, and the human condition.

But surely, not even Ireland could turn the birth of a child into something morosely dark and contemporarily sinister? Ah. Ye of little faith.

Following the birth of his granddaughter, Eric and Bernie’s home should be filled with joyous innocence and light as daughter Julie brings the babe to meet her new grandparents. For Bernie, this birth is the herald of creation many grandparents find in their first – but while Bernie sees a darling baby with familiar eyes glittering back, Eric sees something different in this child’s eyes – “Fenian eyes”. Worse still, in her face, Eric believes that the child looks like the former president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams: all she needs is the beard and glasses. A staunch protestant, Eric considers himself (and his family) to be Ulster-British, so this is perhaps one of the most unfortunate people for the baby to resemble.

Writing across the generational divide, left widely in a wake of Martin McDonagh, who Ireland is often held against in an understandable, if erroneous light, strips away any concerns of romanticism and sentiment. Outside of Ireland’s writing and Andy Arnold’s direction, Cyprus Avenue works as a show due to the sensational Scottish performer David Hayman. Playing Eric, a man suffering from the rampant extremes of paranoia is haunted by the fears and anxieties of the Ulster-Britain Union collapsing. While Hayman is magnificent to watch, capturing a raw weakness which lifts the comedy of anguish, he maintains a grounded insight balancing out Ireland’s descent into the surreal nature of it all.

Often, the voice of reason is located within the women in Eric’s life – from Ann Louise Ross’ quick-witted and no-nonsense Bernie to the sympathetic and determined Sinead Sharkey who offers a vision into the future for her father – a potential ‘Irish’ future, indifferent to the doctrines and forced ideals Eric’s generations were instilled with. The only external voice of the family we seem to be able to trust is from Saskia Ashdown’s Bridget, Eric’s (likely court evaluating) psychiatrist, who manages to throw in a few additional pot-shots of humour and temper out the heightened emotions.

Benefiting from a sharp greyscale set from the always clever Becky Minto, Cyrpus Avenue hones focus on the performance and writing rather than the shock and awe of the staging, transitioning away from Ulster American’s more cluttered, blood-soaked set-up. With the aid of Kate Bonney’s lighting, the space becomes threes – Eric and Bernie’s home, psychiatrist Bridget’s office, and the cold park bench of ‘Slims’ patch.

‘Slim’ is a reminder of the UVF’s continuing influence, Shaun Blaney’s place within the script deepens the absurdity of it all but channels a sublime representation of Ireland’s brand of gallows humour. His violence and allegiance to the Union is the last guttural cry of a white man outside of his empire. Eric is a man wholly out with his time, unable to function in a world so alien, and worse, unable to interact with any persons he finds to be different – despite his protestations of ‘love’ and ‘acceptance’. It’s here the dawning realisation of the magnificent brilliance in Ireland’s accute script emerges – this was all a precursor to the mess we find ourselves in. Cyrpus Avenue was conceived in tandem with, but before heavy implications of Brexit, before Trump, and before the tussle-headed legacy of Johnston.

Distinctive and sinister, the psychological aspect to Andy Arnold’s direction – one which, while entertaining and continuing Ireland’s use of violence, instils a lot more horror in the audience’s mind than in their eyes. The truth being that in Glasgow, in Scotland, there’s a more lukewarm reception to the sectarianism due to the dilution of it all.

There’s a resulting cascade for the audience, who have lifted themselves highly on the laughter, on the absurdity of it all, to be confronted with an abyss: accepting Ireland’s harshness or backing down. For those willing to take the plummet, Cyprus Avenue is a powerful and exceptionally funny piece, whether you’ll allow yourself to admit it or not. Through modern eyes, the prescient nature of the show gleems so obviously, speaking to the audience in different ways, but the Tron’s revival of Cyrpus Avenue looks at the damage done, and the damage still to be identified. 

A Powerfully, Prescient Production

Cyrpus Avenue runs at The Tron Theatre until March 25th. Tuesday – Saturday at 19.30pm. Saturday matinees at 14.30pm.

Running Time – One hour and thirty minutes without interval. Suitable for ages 16+

Tickets begin from £19.00 (£16.00 or £14.50 con.) and may be obtained here.


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