The Road to Menin Gate.
I went to see this play, and as I have seen many of Martin Lynch’s plays, had a rough idea of what would happen. Victim’s daughter meets her father’s killer. Angst, anger, resolution. I was slightly out there and I didn’t see what was coming, which when it did was excruciating at times to watch (or endure). It was a play of two halves. It was dichotomous, which reflects nicely, I suppose, the situation in our ‘wee country’.
The play was well acted, but poorly attended. I would recommend seeing it – unless torture is not your thing. The first half of the play is pretty standard and concentrates on developing the backgrounds of the two main characters. At the break you are left wondering how the policeman’s daughter is going to react. She does react and not half. She obviously has problems and issues from the loss of her father some 30 years prior and I suppose Lynch gives vent to how some people feel but can’t express those feelings in ‘proper’ society.
I see the play on a number of levels with different themes. First of all victims. An unsolvable issue for our society with our attitudes and history. True forgiveness is so great because it is so rare. Here a victim can give vent to their pain and hurt on a target. But this is victimhood verging or toppling into psychosis and becoming as bad as the perpetrator? There is also a release. A violent catharsis? I think Lynch is extremely brave to cast the victim as dancing, singing and nearly in rapture at the realisation she has captured her father’s killer. And inflicted a lot of directed pain and suffering. Two wrongs making a right? Maybe in our wee country. The social narrative is that victims are nice, long suffering and sombre. The problem with N.I is that there are 3 social narratives going on as regards victims hence the confusion and intractability.
But I could view the two characters as two of the main ‘chunks’ of society today. The woman as law abiding, middle upper class ‘decent’ core unionists. The man as, well, violent republicanism, Sinn Fein, et al. The play shows up one image of how things would be if those unionists could give vent to their hurt if only they could get the Shinners hamstrung the way poor Terry ends up. And would the unionist victim’s gloat and rage over their captive? Some would. Of course that is not going to happen. Terry does his best to explain what he went through and the very human feelings of guilt with ending two men’s lives. (Be they brits, peelers or whatever other label you wish to use). I was left with a huge question. Terry eventually– under torture– apologies and admits murder. But did he really kill/murder/execute her father? I don’t know. At some point she has lost the realisation that she isn’t after the truth. She is after plain old common revenge. All in all this was a great play looking at some really complex issues. I am left wondering if one of the plays messages is that, if we took all the killers and forced confessions out of them by torture that everything would be fine. Is this the way to resolve the Troubles legacy issue? I don’t think so.