Play tells tales of turbulence from ‘across the pond’

Bryce Grammer / Washburn Review

Political unrest and societal corruption are usually not the first thoughts that come to mind when I think of 20th century Ireland, but that is exactly what “The Secret Policeman” is about.

Written by Washburn graduate and native Irishman David Bury during a Washburn play writing class in the spring of 2008, “The Secret Policeman” focuses on the odd political relationship between the Sovereign, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is governed by the United Kingdom. From the late 1960s to the mid 1990s, The Irish Republican Army was involved in various bombings and attacks against the UK in an effort to drive England out of Northern Ireland and reunite it with the Republic State.  Similar to the goal featured in the movie “Braveheart.”

While the cast consists of only three main characters, the play maintained my interest throughout.  That is a credit to the quality of Bury’s script.  I thought the play shined the brightest during the first act that primarily consisted of a heated exchange at a large Dublin police station. Danny, played by Michaul Garko, is brought in for questioning as a result of his presumed affiliation with the IRA. The interrogating officer, Detective Clancy, a crooked cop played by Matt Steiner attempts to coerce Danny into becoming an informant for the police. This interrogation quickly degrades to a sharp-tongued battle of whit.

The banter was smart and seemed to flow naturally.  Although the overall tone of the play is serious, there were unexpected, but fitting, bits of comedy thrown in here and there. Both Garko and Steiner spoke with a very believable Irish accent, while the accent of Andy Brown, who portrayed the Military Intelligence Agent Doyle, seemed slightly forced.

At first glance I thought that the set was a little too bare bones, but the story line held the audience’s attention so well, I am confident that the play could have held its own without a set. I think that says a lot about the value of the play. The societal corruption is expressed in the sometimes-questionable morals of the characters, as it is hard to perceive clearly who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

One of the reasons Bury chose this topic for his play was to inform others of the troubled situation that once existed across the pond. I believe that “The Secret Policeman” does that quite well and it doesn’t hurt that the audience is entertained as well. I would recommend this play to anyone who is in the mood for a good drama, mystery as well as an opportunity to learn something new.  The final three performances of “The Secret Policeman” run March 5, 6 and 7 at the Andrew J. and Georgia Neese Gray Theatre in the Garvey Performing Arts Center. Visit www.washburn.edu/cas/theatre/productions.html for show times and ticket information.