Review: In The Name Of The Son – Grand Opera House

The life story of the Guildford Four’s Gerry Conlon made a triumphant return to Belfast last night following a standing ovation for Shane Blaney, the play’s frontman and only actor.

Originally performed at the Lyric, In The Name of The Son is now rightfully being shared on a bigger stage at the Grand Opera House running from the 25th – 30th July.   

The play follows the story of Gerry Conlon, who was wrongfully convicted of taking part in the IRA Guildford pub bombings. He was coerced into signing a confession admitting his involvement after three days of brutal torture by police, and subsequently imprisoned for fifteen years.

On paper, the synopsis makes for pretty heavy subject matter, as following Conlon’s acquittal and release from prison he also struggled with drug abuse, homelessness, suicide attempts and endless night terrors about his father Guiseppe. Yet, there is an underlying sense of hope throughout the performance that is entirely illuminated by Shane Blaney. Playing upwards of a dozen different characters, Blaney’s ability to switch seamlessly between the different genders, ages and accents of all of those who played a role in Conlon’s fascinating story is what makes this otherwise harrowing tale of injustice as entertaining as it is endearing. 

Politics aside, Conlon is portrayed as an easily likeable homebody who somehow ended up rubbing shoulders with Johnny Depp, Daniel-Day Lewis and duetting with Bruce Springsteen in the toilets at the Oscars. A Falls Road native, no matter what side of the fence you are on it is hard not to root for or perhaps resonate with the troubled Conlon as he navigates his way out of addiction to take to the world stage as a spokesperson for injustices similar to his own. 

Littered with local humour and hilarious impersonations of playwright Jim Sheridan, there are plenty of lighter moments to help combat the darker shadows of Conlon’s 60 years of a very colourful life.   

The most notable character missing is Conlon’s father, who we meet only briefly at the beginning. Guiseppe went to his son’s side when he was arrested, he too was then arrested, sent to prison and later died there. It is evident that this haunted Conlon throughout his life, but it is not without resolve as he ‘meets’ his father again at the end of his life and at the timely end of the play. 

Audiences may expect a politically armed experience made dull with doom and gloom, but at its heart the story told is that of the extraordinary life of an ordinary man who made the most he could out of very little else other than his own trauma and injustice. If that’s not to be admired, then Shane Blaney’s not-to-be-missed one man performance certainly is.

Tickets are available to purchase here:

Author: Anna Louise Crockard

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