Compelling Play On Human Rights (Lombard St. Studios)

This is an enthusiastic and compelling offering from an energetic young group working to provide theatre-in-education for post-primary students. And a very good way to while away a morning at school it is too.

“Blindfold which was written by Neil Donnelly of “Silver Dollar Boys” fame, with the help of a grant for Amnesty International, tells the story of two characters from the village in an unidentified Central American country, who travel different roads through life, meeting finally as adults, where one is a suspected terrorist, being interrogated by the other, who has joined the police force.

Both of them were striving to survive and better their standard of living, on through political agitation for worker’s rights, the other by working within the political system. Both in fact are victims of the system, and their choices are limited by the political events that are shaping their country.

Philip Hardy and Cathal O’Riordan gave energetic performances as the two central characters, ably sided by Ann Callanan and Carol Caffrey, who play a succession of roles including a village girl, English agriculturalist, American tourist, and wealthy plantation owner between them.

Director Ben Barnes has ensured that students will learn basic, but simple rules, about theatre, from the effect of both source and underscore music (original music score by Ronan Guilfoyle and Mike McMullen), to the clever and efficient use of the simple props. The play also moves along at a crisp pace, so that concentration is maintained for the full 80-90 minutes, although there are times when one feels there is a rather simplistic treatment of the problems of Central America. However, the complexities of that political entity are far too great to cover in an hour-and-a-half of drama, and the play works in that it gains to raise consciousness on the subject of human rights. As the ‘Team’ group are anxious to point out, the performance is only one aspect of their work – the drama workshop with discussions which follow the performance is equally important. ‘Blindfold’ is offered to post-primary schools during the autumn and spring terms, for senior-cycle students, and is certainly well worth a look (Ann Flaherty).

Sunday Tribune, October 10, 1986 by Fintan O’Toole

A more interesting attempt to get at the personal consequences of political terror is Neil Donnelly’s new play for TEAM, Blindfold (I saw it in Marino school; this week, on Monday and Tuesday night, it is at Lombard Street Studio). The issue of torture and the abuse of human rights is a difficult one to tackle on the stage without falling into either hysterical overkill or explorative violence, but TEAM and Neil Donnelly manage it very well indeed.

The play focuses on three people from the same area of Central America, taking th old story of childhood friends who end up on different sides of the repressive machine, but handling it with skill, subtlety and a sense of complexity, which never gets in the way of an ultimate moral clarity.

The didactic elements of TEAM’s approach, the need to give information and raise issues, do sometimes get in the way, but the most part Ben Barnes’ fluid diretion, excellent performances and fine original score combine with Donnelly’s skill to maintain the dramatic impetus.


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