NEW STAGES: REVIEWS A night in November

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The Independent Culture
Tricycle Theatre

While the powers that be struggle to negotiate a lasting peace for Northern Ireland, it is the people on the ground there who are faced with the practical problems of shaking off attitudes that have become woven into day-to-day life. Marie Jones's new comedy details the personal odyssey of one such man: Kenneth McAllister, DSS clerk, loyal husband, father of two and Protestant.

Kenneth has clawed his way out of poverty to a genteel ghetto of Protestant Belfast and his prejudices have crept up on him stealthily. But one night he accompanies his father-in-law to the World Cup qualifying match between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where he witnesses the full force of what he takes for granted. (This was the match at which the crowd, horrifically, chanted "trick or treat" - the Hallowe'en taunt used by loyalist gunmen before they shot dead seven men in a Greysteel pub a few days earlier.) Kenneth's voyage of self-discovery culminates in a clandestine trip to New York for the Ireland match, where he is able to declare for the first time: "I am from Belfast... and I'm an Irishman".

Simplistic? Yes. Sentimental? Yes. Loaded? Yes. The play wields clichs about the lovable Irish like there is no tomorrow and the extended football metaphor drags Jones into a bog of sentiment. But you forgive her all this because of the play's hopefulness, because of its ironic humour - it crackles with one-liners and astute observation - and because of Dan Gordon's superb solo performance. SH

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