by Daniel Mornin
Review by John Peter, The Sunday Times, 29 September 1985
The National Theatre has reopened the Cottesloe, at least for the next six months, with a rousing speech from Peter Pitt of the GLC who gave the money for it, another by Sir Peter Hall who moved heaven and earth and other places to get it, and then with a new play, The Murderers, by Daniel Mornin, a 29-year-old Ulsterman. It is a bleeding slice of life, set in Belfast's Protestant gangland, and it is nearer to being a play about pure undiluted hatred than any I've ever seen. In terms of plot, not much happens. Tommy has come back from England because his father had been killed by an IRA bomb; joins a Protestant gang, and takes part in the killing of an innocent Catholic. This more than satisfies his longing for revenge, and he refuses to take part in any more 'operations'.
The group murder is deeply sickening to watch, but probably not nearly as horrible as the real thing; and I personally think that a lot of people who fancy that they hold well informed opinions about Northern Ireland should be made to see it. What Mornin's play tells us is how little any of Ulster's troubles really have to do with the British: they feed on ignorant tribal hatred which, 300 years after the colonisation of the north and 60 years after partition, has an unquenchable life of its own. You will say that this is nothing new; and it's true that the play also hints at the horrible bleakness of working-class life as a cause of it; I can only reply that to see this play is to encounter a picture of moral darkness which is far beyond politics.
The second half is better than the first because it takes us inside the minds of the doubters, but the whole thing is written with a passionate objectivity (no small praise) and acted with a disciplined ferocity which I've seldom seen equalled. The play, directed by Peter Gill, is the first of a season of new plays to come from the NT Studio under his leadership, and if the rest is of this standard, the GLC's money will have been well spent.
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