Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director
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Scenes from the Big Picture

by Owen McCafferty

National Theatre, London

Review by Peter Hepple, The Stage, 17 April 2003

Gerard Jordan (left) and Packy Lee in Scenes From the Big Picture at the Cottesloe. Picture: Tristram KentonAs we enter the Cottesloe auditorium we are surprised to find the front row is already full. It gradually dawns upon us that these people are the cast of Owen McCafferty's play, ready to employ a method director Peter Gill has already used in Cardiff East.

And highly effective it is, as the actors leap to their feet to play a scene while others drag on the furniture and other props, to give us a kaleidoscopic view of a day in Belfast, hopefully not as it is at present but certainly in the recent past.

As in last year's Closing Time, McCafferty takes pains not to differentiate his characters, never letting us know whether they are Catholics or Protestants. It opens and closes with the aimless young but in-between there are representations, sometimes humorous but mainly tragic, of elderly shopkeepers at constant risk of attack, the man still searching for his son's body years after he has been killed in a sectarian dispute, warring brothers at their father's funeral, a drug dealer dragged out of his house by rivals, two crafty old drunks with their wiser friend and the helpless womenfolk, forever on the sidelines of these usually mindless events.

Cleverly, McCafferty links their stories together with the help of his brilliant cast, including John Normington, Kathy Kiera Clarke, Frances Tomelty, Dermot Crowley, Harry Towb, Karl Johnson, Eileen Pollock and Michelle Fairley, to name only a few.

Alison Chitty's set, twinkling hopefully at the conclusion, is very effective.

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