"The truth isn't out there"
by Coco Hall for remotegoat on 11/04/13

On the face of it, this is a play that attempts to examine the TRUTH (their caps) about what happened in Gibraltar on the 6th of March 1988 when an SAS unit gunned down 3 unarmed IRA members in the street. But it is not really about that at all. There are clues in the programme notes as to what we are about to get. It is dedicated to all those have been the "innocent victims of sectarian violence, bigotry, and misunderstanding", while at the same time raising questions of journalistic ethics.

The latter is not surprising coming as this play does from the pen of the long time Times legal eagle Alastair Brett, aided, though it is hard to say how much, by playwright and TV writer, Sian Evans.

What plays out is a thinly veiled dramatisation of the role of Carmen Proetta in the media storm, and also the inquest that followed the shootings. Named here as "Rosa" (Karina Fernandez), Proetta gave evidence that seemed to confirm a possible "shoot to kill" policy being pursued by the British government with regard to the IRA, which was demolished as surely in court as her character was by the British red tops. But the inquest was incidental of course. The first person she tells her tale to is cub journalist Amelia (Greer Dale-Foulkes) who makes a name for herself in the ensuing smash documentary. Proetta did indeed do this in Roger Bolton's "Death On The Rock" after which The Sun damned Proetta as "The tart of Gib". In a cute method of mashing fiction with fact TV screens fixed to the roof of this space flash up that very headline, with the face of Rosa substituted for the real Carmen.

It is I think quite an effective way of instilling a period mood but could at times be distracting. But back to the plot. Bestriding the whole play is the magisterial old broadsheet lag Nick, played with twinkly cynicism by George Irving. He's there already trying to get at the TRUTH about terrorism and drugs via his underworld contact Tommy (Billy McColl).

What we get from the resulting brew that this foursome cook up, is a play that is at times engaging but largely fails on the terms it has set itself. There are, amidst the hand-wringing and chicanery some very funny lines, largely from the mouth of Rosa who trips through this piece like Mediterranean hybrid of Lady MacBeth and Poppy Cross from 'Happy Go Lucky'.

She is leading them all a dance, or so at least Nick believes. Or is it Tommy? Ultimately the TRUTH evades the viewer as it does the cast. The piece peters out into some beige new Labour PoMo musings on the elusiveness of knowing anything for sure. Nor have we discovered anything about media ethics that we did not know from reading this morning's Metro.

I think this play would have worked better without the programme notes, which make up your mind for you before you see the play, by hammering home that this is an issues play about TRUTH, but then fails to suggest a solution to the issues, or even attempt to find that truth. The connection between the possible drugs ring and the shootings is muddy and confusing. There are maybe two plays here.

There are some nice ideas and techniques at work in the play. The cast cannot be faulted. Ultimately this cardboard can-can chorus of wise old hack, doe-eyed go getter, slippery crook, and charmingly devious Hispanic femme fatale, stereotype themselves off the stage, kicking high with their performances. Unfortunately though, the words that were written for them leave the audience none the wiser.

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