Double Cross – Lyric Theatre – Review by Cathy Brown
Until Oct 27th 2018
Lyric Theatre and Abbey Theatre Co-Production – Written by Thomas Kilroy
Propaganda. Fake News. The Rise of the Right. It might sound like today’s headlines, but these are the prescient themes of Thomas Kilroy’s Double Cross, originally staged in 1986 and presented in a timely production by Lyric Theatre, Belfast in a co-production with the Abbey.
Double Cross is a play of two halves – exploring the relationship between two complicated Irishmen who were grappling for control of the British airwaves during the Second World War. Brendan Bracken and William Joyce, or ‘Lord Haw Haw’ as he was known, are purveyors of two very different types of propaganda. Bracken is working for Churchill’s Ministry of Information in London and is haunted by his nemesis Joyce, whose Nazi proselytism led him to be the last man hanged for treason.
Ian Toner, on stage throughout most of the production, is mesmerising as the two men and in particular captures the charisma and menace of Joyce perfectly. At times it is hard to believe that this is one and the same actor. Toner retains just enough subtle echoes within both his characterisations to draw out the connections between the men, while still inhabiting two very different people. This is a physical, magnetic performance and the transformation from Bracken to Joyce at the end of Act One is particularly effective.
Charlotte McCurry plays the partners of both, challenging their obsessions and at times, their abuse, with diminishing returns. Sean Kearns, straight off the Good Vibrations stage, again plays numerous characters and elevates every scene, deftly shifting from one accent to another. His suave contained portrayal of Lord Beaverbrook, the pragmatic newspaper publisher and the only character to interact with both men, is a highlight of the production.
The stylish costuming by Gillian Lennox keeps the play grounded in the 1940s but an astute use of Neil Driscoll’s video projection brings the production right up to date, creating a terrifying claustrophobia that highlights the symbiotic relationship between these two men.
The staging is bold. Ciaran Bagnall’s striking art deco set sits in the middle of the space with audience placed on both sides. From a theoretical perspective, this works to highlight the themes of the play. The audience become two opposing sides, mirroring each other just as the characters do. However, it does at time distract attention from the action and can occasionally make it difficult for some of the actors to be heard.
This is a dense and difficult play but it is also thrilling and highly emotional. Under Jimmy Fay’s assured direction it transforms into a striking treatise on truth and identity, each half a mirror image of the other as these two Irishmen struggle with their own split identities. Just as they try to dictate the narrative of their countries, they are also trying to dictate the narrative of their own lives.
The play is alive with our current language of politics bringing to mind Brexit, the Trump/ Putin dichotomy and even our own political stalemate in Stormont. From ‘alternative possibilities’, references to golf courses and a fight for hearts and minds using emotion rather than facts, this admirable production is frighteningly current and vitally important.
CreativesThomas Kilroy – Writer
Jimmy Fay – Director
Ciaran Bagnall – Set Designer
Gillian Lennox – Costume Designer
Paul Keogan – Lighting Designer
Chris Warner – Sound Designer
Neil O’Driscoll – Video Designer