Troubled times

11 April 2017

The Iconoclasts pays due reverence to the music and comedy, so why is the same respect not shown to Northern Ireland's history? asks Daryl Holden


The real Irish aren’t happy.

The Iconoclasts oozes confidence. It lures us in with a live band for the pre-show, and keeps us hooked through a diverse list of characters all expertly realised by their respective actors in a piece of theatre that treats both the musical and comedy departments lovingly. However, when it comes to Iconoclasts' treatment of Northern Irish history, it is here the Troubles begin.

In my mind, a play is only as good as the research that has been put into it. This is where The Iconoclasts comes up short. The research is there to an extent, but the execution of it leaves much to be desired. To present this piece takes guts, but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of worrying about how a show containing music, stand-up, drag and magic would be perceived, the script should have paid more attention to how it was alienating the very people it seemed to represent. The Northern Irish themselves.

The Iconoclasts seem to completely disregard any sense of tenderness when it comes to the history of Northern Ireland and this is something that I cannot forgive. I feel that The Iconoclast clan could have hailed from anywhere else in the world, absolutely anywhere, and the story would still have held its weight. However, what they did was bring us to Belfast. They brought us to a heavily Catholic, Republican family and proceeded to have them berate a still rather tender topic. All for the sake of a cheap laugh.

Yet no laughs came. Not from me. The fact that Dear Hunter Theatre, the company itself, states that they like to work on the political edge of theatre, it makes me wonder why they made this the exception. References to incidents in the Troubles were little more than that. They never expanded on them nor drew on them to explain the deep hatred that the family seemed to have for the British, instead they played on an overused stereotype that benefited the piece in no real way.

To expand on this further, we see the family completely disregard the stereotype that has been built for them whenever the plot deems it necessary. How can a family, who hates the British as much as the Iconoclasts seem to, even think about doing a documentary for such a staple British institution as the BBC, never mind a revival tour that kicks off in England itself? The references weren’t very tongue-in-cheek either, in fact, they were close to being downright disrespectful.

Musical numbers and jokes on Bloody Sunday, Irish freedom fighter deaths, roadside car bombs, dead soldiers and the argument of Derry/Londonderry fell on an audience who couldn’t relate, therefore negating the use of them in the first place, while at the same time enraging those who understood the reference, yet felt the delivery was in poor taste.

I was willing to overlook the shoddy accents in favour of absolutely outstanding singing, performances, confidence and musical styles. However, what I cannot overlook is history, especially my own, and it leads me to ask the question: if this show had gone to a theatre in Belfast, would this have been overlooked, as it seems to have been by many or, would they have even made it through the opening number without being ran out of town?


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Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca