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Review: Gibraltar @ArcolaTheatre


Alastair Brett and Sian Evans' play Gibraltar is both a snap shot of one of the most turbulent periods of the Northern Ireland conflict and an examination of how we uncover the truth. The story centres on the killing of three unarmed IRA terrorists by the SAS in Gibraltar and two journalists investigations into what happened.

The subsequent inquiry into the incident recorded a verdict of 'lawful' killing despite the testimony of one eye witness Rosa (Karina Fernandez) who claimed to have seen the terrorist putting their hands up to surrender.

Nick (George Irving) is a newspaper hack based in Gibraltar and investigating IRA drug running through Spain. He pays his informants and meticulously checks everything but he can't get Rosa to talk. Amelia (Greer Dale-Foulkes) is a TV journalist who arrives to work on a documentary about the shooting and manages to secure a filmed interview with Rosa in which she talks about what she saw.

But the truth as both journalists find out isn't as black and white as it appears.

Structured as a series of shortish scenes, the play rattles along at a reasonable pace with all the cast doubling up to play extras when necessary - there is some deft switching of accents and costumes that is to be admired. It keeps it fresh and adds drama to what is essentially a piece in which people talk about things they've seen and what they know.

It is simply staged  with the bare minimum of props (some mesmerising angry towel folding by Fernadez) except for a series of TV screens hung above the stage, presumably there to add something a  bit more visual but which in the main felt redundant.

The screens worked best when showing newspaper headlines and surveillance photo's of the characters which added a sense of jeopardy and intrigue. However, I'm not sure losing them, and the live footage that was occasionally used, would really adversely affect the plays impact.

There is a lot in the programme about the key events in the Northern Ireland conflict which was useful background for those less familiar with the history and I count myself in that group. There is also a map of Gibraltar marking the points where the terrorists were shot and I wonder if it was felt necessary to include it to assist in visualising the eye witness accounts.

Gibraltar is an interesting play, an educational play, filling in the gaps in my knowledge certainly. I think the debate about how you actually get to the truth and how the truth can be shaped by interpretation - Rosa's court room scene is particularly good for that - is an interesting one although it felt a lot more straightforward by the end than had possibly been intended.

It runs in the Arcola's bijou Studio 2 until April 20.

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