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Dev's Army by Stuart D Lee at Taurus Bar, Manchester

Published by: Caroline May on 30th Jun 2011 | View all blogs by Caroline May

The Manchester International Festival’s even more exciting fringe - the Not Part Of Festival 2011 - kicks off at Taurus Bar with this unusual comedy drama from multiple award-winning playwright Stuart D Lee.

Although there’s no shortage of Second World War-based fiction, Dev’s Army deals with the rarely explored issue of Ireland’s uneasy neutrality during what their Prime Minister Eamon De Valera (“Dev”) preferred to call the “Emergency”. With the Irish state barely twenty years old and the battle for freedom from the British still fresh in the memory, the population had conflicting emotions about fighting on the same side as their erstwhile foes even against a potentially much greater evil.

It’s September 1940, and while the Battle of Britain draws to a close over southern England all that is protecting the Irish coast against invasion is a trio of ill-matched oddballs armed with a one-wheeled bike and an unloaded gun. The seaside setting recalls Bridget O’Connor’s hilarious The Flags, while the ramshackle set-up is like Dad’s Army re-written by Martin McDonagh.

The ever-reliable Richard Sails as elderly patriot Paddy captures the character’s simultaneous craven cowardice and bully-boy bravado in the slippery way he dwells on the events of 1916 without ever specifying his role in them. Dean O’Sullivan’s credulous youngster Michael is the catalyst for many farcical situations, particularly at the beginning of Act 2, and Matt Lanigan’s earnest Dermot lends credulity to the squad as the only one with actual experience of fighting in a war.

The drama shifts into a different gear when a mysterious man in a suit is washed up on the beach following an explosion. Wayne Allsop is really excellent as the sinister and duplicitous stranger, all charm and danger - a classic Kevin Spacey role.

James Foster’s direction is strong on emotional realism, while Owen Rafferty’s evocative sound design and Christian Taylor’s attention to detail with the set, props and costumes establishes that this production has ambitions higher than the average fringe show. An excellent debut from Elysion Productions.

Dev’s Army

Presented by Elysion Productions

Taurus Bar, Canal Street, Manchester

Wed 29 June - Sat 2 July 2011 @ 8pm (3pm matinee on Sat)

£7/£5 (conc)









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