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Gibraltar, Arcola Theatre

Alastair Brett and Sian Evans

Directed by James Robert Carson
Pros: A brave and ambitious attempt at tackling a contentious and complex subject, with a delightful performance by Karina Fernandez as the astute Rosa.
Cons: At the end of two hours, the play fails to have any real impact because it is not clear what its point is.
Our Verdict: The play manages to create its own identity, and the decision to tackle a controversial event in history on stage should be applauded. However, a lack of momentum and structure, especially during the first half of the play, lets it down.
Credit: Simon Annand
Writing a play about the controversial shooting of three unarmed IRA terrorists in Gibraltar in 1988 and the events which followed is certainly original and brave. It is a time in history which still provokes strong emotions amongst Gibraltarians, British and Irish alike. This period back in 1988 and its bloody aftermath represents some of the darkest moments of the Northern Ireland conflict. Memories are still fresh and painful after 20 years, which is probably why plays about it are rare.
Gibraltar, written by Alastair Brett and Sian Evans, does in part try to be a history lesson. Facts cannot be changed, so the play concentrates on the aftermath of the shooting of IRA members Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage and Daniel McCann. Hundreds of journalists quickly descend on the small British Overseas Territory to investigate the killings, which were carried out by the British SAS. The semi-fictional part of the play revolves around Nick (played by George Irving), a Gibraltarian based journalist who is inadvertently investigating criminal gangs in Spain when the shootings occur. Nick soon discovers a link between these gangs and the Provisional IRA.
Nick is joined on Gibraltar by Amelia (played by Greer Dale-Foulkes), a TV journalist who is interested in getting a “scoop” rather than getting to the truth. She falls quickly for the sensationalist eye witness account of Rosa, played superbly by Karina Fernandez. But doubt is soon cast on Rosa’s story and her name and reputation is dragged through the mud by the British press.
The stage at the Arcola Theatre is kept pretty bare during the play, using a table and just a few chairs. The production mainly relies on a fanciful use of half a dozen TV screens hanging from the ceiling to project grainy videotaped images of Gibraltar as the backdrop. The screens are also used to show a compelling live TV interview between journalist Amelia and Rosa later in the play.
Of the four cast members, Karina Fernandez’s and Billy McColl’s (who plays “Mr Costa del Crime”) performances were the strongest and most engaging. Although George Irving plays the central character in the play, the writing for his character Nick was one dimensional at times, which did not really match the persona of an investigative journalist.
As I left the Arcola, I found myself struggling to understand what the play was trying to say. It is an original idea and credit must be given for that, but I did not feel the play took the audience anywhere new. The play teaches us that war and journalism are often a dirty business, and that unpleasant events do happen. We knew this already though. It was so in 1988 and still is so today. 
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Gibraltar at the Arcola Theatre runs until 20th April 2013.
Box Office: 020 7503 1646 or book online at http://www.arcolatheatre.com/tickets-for/arcola/gibraltar.

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