Shoot The Crow, Trafalgar Studio One, London

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The Independent Culture

"Shoot the crow" in Belfast means just, "I'm off." Those ugly black birds sure come in for a lot of pointless metaphorical jargon. But not as pointless as most of this meandering, tedious short play about a day in the life of four Belfast tilers, one of whom is played by James Nesbitt of Cold Feet fame.

Nesbitt is cool. But I never felt that he was inside his role of a chap called Socrates - is he philosophical, or what, nudge,nudge?- unhappily separated from his wife and son. He grinned and shrugged through the evening which steadily became less about grouting on tiles and more about grating on nerves. Socrates and Petesy, his pony-tailed, black T-shirted sidekick played by Conleth Hill (he of Stones in His Pockets and camp old Roger de Bris in The Producers fame) are planning to nick a pile of tiles from their workplace.

Which is a lavatory. Next door, in the shower room, retiring old Ding-Ding (Jim Norton) and wannabe biker Randolph (Packy Lee) are planning an identical heist. It all goes wrong in imitative David Mamet fashion. But not before we learn about "what is art" - are clothes on a radiator an exhibition?; this passage amused Tracey Emin, a few seats along from me.

McCafferty is a brilliant new Irish dramatistto set alongside Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson. But this warm-up play, dating from 1997, is not a good calling card. You never meet a character or care about them to the point where what they claim on you at the end is important.

Some of this reaction must be related to the venue. The Trafalgar Studios is a monstrosity of development, changing the art deco auditorium of the old Whitehall Theatre into a "functional" space and a silly " experimental" venue below: all this in the name of "democratisation " and "new audiences" who might want to avoid "West End" values and will, certainly, now. All that matters is the show on offer. And Shoot the Crow has the virtues of a reasonably good night out at the Bush Theatre, or the Hampstead, or the Royal Court in its present dreary incarnation, but no appeal beyond that pathetically limited constituency.

To 30 November (0870 060 6632)

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