The Theatreguide.London Review
Shoot the Crow
Trafalgar Studios Autumn 2005
Owen McCafferty's thoughtful comedy shows four Irish workmen on the job, and work itself turns out to be the subject.
Why do people work? How do they feel about their work? What does working do to the soul - or, for that matter, the individual soul do to the job?
The play explores these questions comically and occasionally movingly, and thus provides a little more meat than you might have come in expecting.
The four tilers (i.e., installers of bathroom wall and floor tiles on a building site) are a bit predictably varied in character types - the about-to-retire veteran, the no-nonsense foreman, the philosophical one, the apprentice kid.
We learn very quickly that all four have modest but respect-worthy ambitions their limited incomes don't quite allow for.
The older man wants to invest in a small post-retirement business, the leader wants to be able to send his talented daughter on a school trip, the thinker wants to prove something to himself by breaking a pattern of disappointing his family, the kid wants to buy a motorcycle and see the world.
The play does not in any way ridicule or patronise these small dreams, and our first shock of recognition comes in being reminded that what many would consider good jobs do not allow for even this little in the way of reward.
The comic plot is built on plans to steal some building materials for a quick side-sale, a project whose complications snowball to everyone's frustration. And out of that comic frustration comes the exposure of other, deeper frustrations of the soul-damaging sort.
One of the very few criticisms to make of McCafferty's script is that he engineers things so that the men bare their souls and expose their pain in ways that it's hard to believe such men could bring themselves to do among workmates they'd have to see every day.
But it's an acceptable artifice, and it allows for a series of shocks-of-recognition that deepen the comedy without spoiling the fun.
(The title, incidentally, comes from the Irish equivalent of Cockney rhyming slang - and no, I didn't know there was such a thing either - and just means 'Let's go.')
Robert Delamere directs with a sure hand for both comedy and drama, carrying the play through its shifts in tone without losing either the jokes or the insights.
The four actors - James Nesbitt, Conleth Hill, Jim Norton and Packy Lee - could not be bettered, combining believable and sympathetic characterisations with seamless ensemble playing.
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