Dev’s Army ★★★★ The Bread & Roses Theatre | March 8 - 19, 2022


Dev's Army is set during WW II in a neutral Ireland which has posted the Local Defence Force around the island to deal with possible incursions. These undersupplied and haphazardly trained men are the front line of Éamon de Valera's (Dev's) policy to protect and foster the newly founded country. At this particular outpost are three charming and contrasting characters who represent various facets of the nascent nation. Paddy, delightfully played by Paul Murphy, is a romantic nationalist and fantasist who claims to have been at the Easter Rising. Murphy's characterisation is a familiar delight and he dominates the stage with his bravado and tall tales. Dermot (Nick Danan), is the pragmatic and sensible one who under the Anglo-Irish regime fought for Britain in WW I. Danan does a fine job of creating this more complex and nuanced character. The foil of these two is the apparently naive Michael (Eoin McAndrew) who represents the new generation being tutored by his elders. It is an amusing and comfortable world until a mysterious stranger (Niamh Finlay) is washed ashore. Into their simple, comic backwater she brings a foreboding reality. This castaway represents forces that will test not only the Local Defence Force but also de Valera's concept for protecting the new Irish Republic. Stuart D. Lee has written an entertaining and thoughtful play, reminiscent of Seán O'Casey and it has some tremendous humorous moments and a captivating story arc. If we have any quibbles it is with some of the actors' accents and with the transition from broad comedy to darker drama. The shift requires a nuance and conviction that isn't quite achieved. That said, this is a fine play and a strong production. If you enjoy good theatre, enlist for Dev's Army.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Lidia Crisafulli.

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