Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Dev's Army

Stuart D. Lee
Tauris Bar, Manchester
29 June 2011 to 02 July 2011

A classy example of how a one-act, four-hander play, lasting just 60 minutes, can hold an audience in the palm of its small-scale hand.

Stuart D. Lee’s story has already won a theatre award in Galway, as well it should since it’s set in Ireland, where a small contingent of the Irish Army is earnestly protecting their country’s wartime neutrality, by guarding a remote beach.

Imagine Dad’s Army on a sortie into Father Ted territory . . .

A cast of Manchester-based actors, Richard Sails, Matt Lanigan, Dean O’Sullivan and Wayne Allsop, deliver it here in the almost claustrophobic venue of a Canal Street cellar. The front row audience could sit down to a meal with the cast.

Naturally this would not be a proper Irish play were it not served up with an authentic head of rich, black humour.

The arrival, by parcel, of a single bullet for their single revolver creates its own tensions among the three-man detail, but even that is overshadowed by the explosive appearance of a stranger on the shore.

In just one hour Lee gives each of his characters a defined back story and creates a catalytic interaction that deftly mixes humour and high drama. He is even able to illustrate the mottled nature of allegiances in a newly-born country that was still unsure of its place in the world.

First appearances here, and motivations, are not all that they appear to be.

Reviewer: David Upton