Drama Review: David Ireland brings vitality of theatre to small screen with Sadie

Patrick Jenkins, Santino Smith, Andrea Irvine, Abigail McGibbon and David Pearse in Sadie by David Ireland. Picture by Carrie Davenport
Jane Hardy



By David Ireland

Lyric theatre / BBC2

IF YOU want to show the vitality of theatre, albeit on the 36" TV screen, as part of the BBC Lights Up series it's clever to choose a playwright who doesn't do flat realism. David Ireland's definitely your man.

Sadie, the Field Day Theatre production delayed by Covid 19 and picked up by Jimmy Fay and the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, then by BBC Four where it premiered on Wednesday night, is a fascinating account of one woman, her troubles and the Troubles.

The author of Cyprus Avenue has ventured into new territory, slightly 20th century American with a couple of key dead men inhabiting Sadie's head on the Lyric stage where the play was filmed.

But first, Sadie has a romantic encounter with a very live man, the delightful Joao (Santino Smith) her toyboy. Reminiscent of Ireland's Love Lockdown piece, the spring-autumn affair is totally believable with a possible Brexit undercurrent. This woman, super articulate, a cleaner by profession, says she thinks she's in love.

There's a hint of the violence to come, though, when Sadie slaps her lover. Abigail McGibbon excels at both aspects of the character.

We then segue into a sequence with Joao's counsellor, Mairead (convincing Andrea Irvine) a kind of inquisitor. Then the violence is ramped up and we enter a truly frightening world.

The Northern Ireland situation, represented by ghosts talking about political ghosts, is ripped open by the playwright described as the expert on Ulster's political psychosis. Clark (plausible David Pearse), Sadie's ex, long gone, enjoys referring to violent encounters, and we sense he's not the only one stuck in the past.

There is a revelation about RED's demise which I shan't reveal.

Ireland shares Gary Mitchell's ability to suggest human beings whose moral compass is broken.

We end unsurprisingly with harrowing destruction, well directed by Conleth Hill, maybe a metaphor about Ireland coming back at Britain as Sadie's seemingly charming Fenian uncle RED (superb Patrick Jenkins) is seen to abuse her. There is the darkest of humour even here. The man sang songs from his side and his damaged niece says: "I always hated 'I wish I was in Carrickfergus'."

Sadie, part of the BBC Lights Up season, is on BBC2 at 11.30pm tonight (Thursday April 01) and available via iPlayer for 12 months.

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