Review: The Big Fellah

Last night saw the opening of Out of Joint’s production of The Big Fellah, a tale of the IRA in New York across three decades.

Following the paths of Ruairi, a hazardous member from Cork, who finds himself stowed away in a safe house in New York but soon realises that he doesn’t like all the killing; Michael, the New York fire fighter who is inducted to the IRA after passing muster with Costello, AKA the Big Fellah, AKA The American, the IRA’s man in America who provides the funding and materials needed in Ireland for “the cause”; and Tom Billy, an over eager blue collar member whose soul purpose is to send people “to Mexico” and to prove he’s not gay!

The story itself is fast moving, and shows the New York gang’s part in the progression of the IRA from a human rights movement in the 70’s through to a terrorist organisation in the 90’s and also how each member of the gang becomes absorbed and sometimes disillusioned with the cause. Interesting points are brought up about nationality, in particular Irish American nationality –“Is it not enough to be from Boston?”, and the Irish American relationship with the “organic” IRA members in Northern Ireland.

At times the scenes can get quite nasty, one scene in particular involving a drill and someone’s shoulder (let’s just say they must have stocked up big time on the fake blood!), however I would imagine that if you’re going to go to a play on the IRA, you’re not expecting bunny rabbits and puppies to be running around the stage.

The cast themselves are great in their roles, Luke Griffin’s cork accent took a bit of getting used to but Finbar Lynch really shines out as the fierce but disenchanted Costello. Sometimes points are forced slightly in the script, but I don’t think it takes away too much from some really great epiphanic moments for the characters.

Without giving too much away, the final monologue offers one of these epiphanies and I felt at the time, the play should have ended there, however the final scene does really bring up the point of the irony of the Irish Americans who supported the IRA as a terrorist organisation but because of their place in society as police men and firemen are held up, in another light, as heroes of society. I could start a big conversation about the IRA, but I’m wandering into dangerous waters. As Ruairi says, “Ok I’ll shut up now.” You can watch the trailer below:

The production plays at the Gaeity until May 7th and tickets can be purchased here: Buy tickets to The Big Fellah

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