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A poignant analysis of unionists at the Somme

Review: Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast

By Frances Burscough

Published 08/07/2016

Spellbinding: a scene from the play
Spellbinding: a scene from the play

The moving Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, by Frank McGuinness, opened at the Lyric Theatre this week, and the audience was spellbound from the outset.

Coming just after the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, in which 5,500 soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division lost their lives in two days of fighting, the play tells the story of eight local men from different backgrounds brought together for the war.

Only one, Kenneth Pyper, survives to the tell the tale.

But this is not a play simply about the ravages of war. It is also a complex and challenging analysis of the unionist mindset and the staunch Protestant ethos that drove such men to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The ensemble cast, including the veteran Irish actor Sean McGinley, is a highlight of the moving play, as is Jeremy Herrin's brilliant direction.

And with a breathtaking set designed by Ciaran Bagnall and spectacular lighting by Paul Keogan, each scene is seared into your memory for ever.

Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme is a co-production between the Abbey, Headlong, Citizens Theatre and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatre, and is co-presented with the Lyric Theatre.

It will be at the Lyric from July 5 until July 16, before moving to the Millennium Forum in Londonderry (July 19-21), the Market Place Theatre in Armagh (July 23), the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine (July 26) and An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny (July 29-30). The tour is supported by the Irish government's Reconciliation Fund and the International Fund for Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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