UNDER THE BLACK ROCK | London, Arcola Theatre

In Northern Ireland, at some time during The Troubles, a local faction of a pro-Catholic terrorist group (we assume the IRA; it’s never stated) realise that they have a mole, someone leaking secrets to the other side. From this opening realisation, the tension tightens and tightens, through harrowing torture scenes, to a finale that takes us to April 2023, the 25th anniversary for the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

The eight members of the cast are outstanding, providing intense drama worthy of the West End. Evanna Lynch (Harry Potter film series) stars as Niamh, daughter of the Ryan family, desperately trying to make sense of her multiple allegiances, including her troubled and vulnerable brother (Jordan Walker).

Director and sound designer Ben Kavanagh opts for simple staging, with doom-laden, theatrical soundscapes and lighting design (Joseph Ed Thomas), that enable us to move quickly from scene to scene. “We are all born under the black rock,” intones Niamh’s father (John Nayagam), “and we will die under it.” In Ceci Calf’s design, a gigantic black rock hangs over the stage, suspended by ropes over the audience’s heads, creating a claustrophobic and threatening atmosphere from the start.

Though the story begins with the characters outlining a ‘find-the-mole’ whodunnit, we slowly realise that the real bent of Tim Edge’s script is about the toxic effects of terrorism, not only on its victims, but on its perpetrators, too.

Playing at the Arcola Theatre 2 – 25 March 2023.

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