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

by Owen McCafferty

National Theatre, London

Review by Georgina Brown, Mail on Sunday, 20 April 2003

The only stars in Scenes From The Big Picture are real ones, shining in the black sky, a sign of something beyond, something bigger, better, of infinite space where our voices never die. It's a potent image.

Owen McCafferty's marvellous, engrossing, ensemble play is a life in the day of 21 characters whose lives entwine in a poor part of Belfast. In Peter Gill's brilliantly directed, outstandingly performed production the cast is the front row of the audience, charging forward to move chairs and tables to create a pub, a shop, a house, a hospital, an office, and take their part in the action.

There's a death, a birth, and all the tragi-comic stuff, the secrets and lies, the agonies and ecstasies, love and hate that happens in between.

Some of the story concerns the abattoir where many work, worked or want to work. With each small scene, the picture gels imperceptibly bigger. The Troubles cannot be avoided, but McCafferty keeps them simmering in the background. In the foreground are the ordinary people, all made special by McCafferty's detailed portraits.

One couple's relationship is frayed by years of grief for their murdered son whose body has never been found. Another's by their inability to conceive. Kids nick stuff from the weary shopkeeper. A drug dealer almost murders his moll.

McCafferty's plotting is superb. Just as you think you know where the story is going, he pulls a much more interesting rabbit out of the hat.

His is a quietly dramatic magic: no tricks, just human nature revealed with infinite humanity.

Not to be missed.

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