The Shadow of a Gunman, first produced in Dublin in 1923, fits snugly into the Tricycle's preoccupation with up-to-the-minute politics, most recently with Justifying War, based on the Hutton inquiry, and Guantanamo, about the treatment of Muslim prisoners by the Americans.
But Sean O'Casey's play, his first to be accepted after a number of rejections by the Abbey Theatre, is also specific to its time and place. Donal Davoren, mistaken for an IRA gunman, enjoys the sexy notoriety but not the danger and is shamed when the girl who fancies him risks her life to save him as Black and Tans surround the building. The farce leading to tragedy is wonderfully bold in its context, so near to the pain of events.
Dominic Dromgoole's production catches the period well in Michael Taylor's convincingly down-at-heel tenement. The room shared by would-be poet Donal (an unheroic figure with echoes of the young Charlie Chaplin in Aidan McArdle's moustachioed interpretation) and Frank McCusker's pragmatic Seumas Shields has a wall removed so that we can see visitors on their way up and down the stairs outside. The room is part of a community. Privacy is an unattainable luxury.
Written by an autodidact with a brilliant facility for both language and character, the piece has, nevertheless, a few lines you wouldn't wish on any actor. In his last speech, Davoren has to say: "Oh Donal Davoren, shame is your portion now till the silver cord is loosened and the golden bowl be broken. Oh Davoren, Donal Davoren, poet and poltroon, poltroon and poet". McArdle carries it off with aplomb.
Newcomer Jane Murphy is innocently flirtatious in the plot-moving part of pretty, impressionable Minnie. Maggie McCarthy and Marion O'Dwyer give the older women plenty of swaggering presence, but it is Frank McCusker who has the best lines, the most complex character - a wastrel who values education, a clear thinker who chooses to deny the truth - and he makes the most of the opportunity.
- Heather Neill