Still, The Blackbird Sings Review
March 18, 2010
What did it mean to be Irish in the months between the Easter Rebellion on 1916 and the Battle of the Somme? It may have been at different alters but it was the same sacrifice that both sides made for their god and their country and it’s the mutual anger and devastation that arouse from this slaughter that is explored in Dave Duggan’s Still, The Blackbird Sings which runs till Saturday at The Project Arts Centre.
Using the life of the poet Francis Ledwidge as his tool Duggan probes divided loyalties, human sacrifice and the facade of command in this imagining of barrack life between bouts at the front. Back from a stint at Gallopi Lance-Corporal Ledwidge (Mark Fitzgerald) and his men reflect on a soldier’s life and dream of home while trudging through trips to the pub, games of cards and beignet practice. Soldiers are going over the barrack wall out of fear or out of a new found sense of loyalty while the once faithful Unionists are beginning to question the purpose of a war that has taken a massive toll on their brethren.
Duggan has a strong ear for dialogue and the banter between the troops is natural and engaging. He’s helped by a cast who let the humor contained within his script out naturally and never stoop to the Irish performers fail safe wink and a nudge playacting. Conan Sweeney and Colm Gormley in particular impress in their dual roles while Packy Lee finely walks the line between providing the plays comic relief and emotional centre.
The whole piece is shrewdly directed by Catriona mcLaughlin who devises a series of montages and musical numbers to keep the action moving that never feel false and while the ending feels a little rushed, and an imagined romance poorly executed by the performers, the show, as a whole, makes a decent stab at showing the tensions that must have existed in the British Army at the time.