“The Freedom of The City”

“Sociopolitical themes are invariably woven into the fabric of the great contemporary Irish dramatist Brian Friel’s works, but few are as direct in their focus as “The Freedom of the City,” which is being given A TRENCHANT REVIVAL at the Irish Repertory Theater. Staged by Ciaran O’Reilly with a firm handle on the narrative’s time-shuffling structure and a stinging clarity that illuminates this 1973 play’s multiple perspectives, THE DRAMA STEADILY TIGHTENS ITS GRIP, right up to its shattering conclusion. Given that the outcome is revealed from the start, and that there are somewhat didactic detours along the way, THE PLAY’S EMOTIONAL IMPACT IS ESPECIALLY NOTEWORTHY. Those three lead performances — Ms. Seymour’s the most quietly wrenching — put a haunting human face on the Troubles in Northern Ireland.”
— The New York Times

CARA SEYMOUR AT IRISH REP

Review: Brian Friel’s ‘The Freedom of the City’ is compelling, angry political drama

Shirley Herz Associates, Carol Rosegg/Associated Press –  This photo provided by Shirley Herz Associates shows, from left, Cara Seymour, James Russell and Joseph Sikora, in a scene from Brian Friel’s drama, ‘The Freedom of the City’, currently performing off-Broadway at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York.
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By Associated Press, Published: October 15

NEW YORK — Brian Friel is a master at beginning his plays at the end. Even though we know the outcome, his compassionate interpretation of events and their aftermaths often sheds light on social issues both specific and universal.

His angry and deeply moving 1973 political drama “The Freedom of the City” is about the murder of three unarmed Irish civilians by British troops after a civil rights march in Northern Ireland. Friel’s ironically-titled work is based on real events that occurred in January 1972, when British soldiers killed 13 Irish citizens in similar circumstances, on what became known as Bloody Sunday
 
Ciaran O’Reilly directs a talented ensemble cast of nine in the thoughtful, quite stirring production that opened Sunday night off-Broadway at the Irish Repertory Theatre. O’Reilly cleverly stages Friel’s multiple narratives, making excellent use of his small stage and cast, deftly showcasing a wide array of events and locations.

The focus is on an intimate setting inside a staid town hall where the three main characters spend their final afternoon. These ordinary civilians, later wrongly deemed by the official investigation to be “terrorists,” have stumbled into the town’s Guild Hall to escape being tear-gassed by British paratroopers after a public rally.

Scenes of their colorful chat and innocent enjoyment of the luxuries they find in the mayor’s comfortable office are juxtaposed with flashes of the ongoing violence and misinformation outside. Stark contrast is provided by untrue statements from British law enforcement personnel during the subsequent investigation into their deaths.

The impoverished, ill-fated locals include Lily Doherty, cleaning woman and mother of 11 children, (a radiant performance by Cara Seymour), and two young men: Adrian Skinner is a sarcastic petty criminal, (Joseph Sikora, edgy and raucous), and Michael, a hardworking, idealistic student, who is given an earnest, uneasy air by James Russell.

Seymour is wondrously expressive, wearing a sweet, reflective and often mumsy demeanor. Lily offers up wry commentary as she and Skinner sip some of the mayor’s fine liquor and open up a little about themselves, even doing some singing and dancing. Sikora is alternately impulsive and cynical, while Skinner’s bitter flippancy seems most attuned to their possible fate. Russell radiates the uneasiness of upright Michael, who doesn’t enjoy his companions’ casual humor.

John C. Vennema is smug and querulous as an “objective” British tribunal judge who reaches inaccurate, clearly prejudiced conclusions. Politely condescending lectures about “the culture of poverty” are provided by Christa Scott-Reed as an American sociologist. Ciaran Byrne is appropriately outraged as a Catholic priest as politicians, the Church and media all use the trio’s fate to serve their own agendas. Clark Carmichael mournfully sings a couple of ballads conveying the folk-hero status bestowed upon them.

Set designer Charlie Corcoran has effectively created the gloomy town hall, while dramatic lighting enhances each vignette and explosions outside increase the tension. “All over the world, the gulf between the rich and the poor is widening,” the sociologist solemnly notes, like it was something new. Many of Friel’s observations about poverty and power in this compelling work from four decades ago remain unfortunately truer than ever today.

Online:

http://www.irishrep.org

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Irish Repertory Theatre – Home »

Set in Derry, Northern Ireland during the aftermath of a civil rights meeting, THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY revolves around an inquiry into the shooting by British soldiers of three marchers as they emerge…
 
 
 
 
 
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cara seymour

NOW PERFORMING!

 

  THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY
by Brian Friel
 
directed by Ciarán O’Reilly
 
Limited Engagement – 
Through November 25th Only!

Brian Friel's The Freedom of the City at The Irish Repertory Theatre
Check out this video for a behind-the-scenes look.

Set in Derry, Northern Ireland during the aftermath of a civil rights meeting, THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY 

revolves around an inquiry into the shooting by British soldiers of three marchers as they emerged from the Guildhall. As the inquiry continues, with testimony from ‘expert’ witnesses, the play relives the real events that led to its institution. 
Cara Seymour as Lily, James Russell as Michael
When the police disrupt the peaceful protest, three unarmed strangers, Lily, a middle-aged mother of 11, and Michael and Skinner, two young men, take refuge from the streets and find themselves inexplicably in the Mayor’s Parlor. As the three settle in to the Lord Mayor’s opulent office, word spreads about the “occupation” of the Guildhall. 

Joseph Sikora
Joseph Sikora as Skinner

The motley trio is transformed into a band of armed and desperate terrorists, a fiction that is taken up by the church, the media, the army, and nationalist balladeers, all of whom use the myth for their own diverse ends.

Schedule:
Wed 3pm & 8pm | Thu 7pm | Fri 8pm
Sat 3pm & 8pm | Sun 3pm

Tickets: $65 or $55
www.irishrep.org or 212-727-2737