ARTS AND FEATURES — 22 April 2014

5 stars

By David Hennessy

The double bill of plays by James McAnespy, C.L.G. and Sitting Up for Michael, are highly recommended.

In Sitting Up for Michael, the audience see the family and friends of Michael Montague gather for the sit up on the eve of his funeral. Set in contemporary county Tyrone, the comedy sees siblings Brian and Frieda bickering relentlessly, neighbour Doris offering support and tea and young Rory who has come to lend a hand but wouldn’t say no to a drink if there’s one going.

The friendly atmosphere is destroyed when Joe walks in with a girl he has just met. There is clearly some tension between Rory and Carla although both are reluctant to reveal details. Fintan Dineen’s performance as Rory slowly boils to a startling explosion. While the start of the play finds him in good spirits and trying to forget his troubles, it is clear to see he is haunted. While he mentions a recent bereavement early on, this is a well placed seed for later drama.

Janette McManus is well cast as Carla as she looks sweet and innocent leading the audience not to expect what comes later. There is some poignant writing for her character Carla’s explanation for her bullying that evokes some sympathy for her.

The play possesses a real heart. Although Brian and Frieda fight, you can see they can’t express their pain any other way. Sharron Byrne is excellent as Frieda with an accent easily mistaken for native.

C.L.G. is a thirty minute double hander about Lory and Sam, rivals from different GAA clubs who are locked in a room until they can decide on a neutral venue for a forthcoming match.

It is in their confined conversation that the audience learns just how much history they have and how some old wounds have yet to heal.

When Sam tries to suggest Lory could join his club, who are in a much higher division, and further his career with a possible call up to the county team, Lory will have none of it as “your club is your club”. The debate they have about the GAA’s morals and traditions in a new age of sport is very apt with the recent announcement of GAA signing a deal with Sky.

James McAnespy, who acts in both, has pulled off two great pieces of drama here and it is easy to see why they have been well received in Ireland.

C.L.G. and Sitting up for Michael are showing at The White Bear Theatre until April 27. For more information, go to: whitebeartheatre.co.uk.

The cast chat about the plays here…

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