Owen McCafferty
Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Listing details and ticket info...

Ruairi Conaghan, Andrea Irvine, Richard Croxford, Dan Gordon and Chris Corrigan in Agreement Credit: Carrie Davenport
Dan Gordon as John Hume, Chris Corrigan as Gerry Adams in Agreement Credit: Carrie Davenport
Ruairi Conaghan as David Trimble, Ronan Leahy as Bertie Ahern in Agreement Credit: Carrie Davenport
Andrea Irvine's Mo Mowlam and Martin Hutson's Tony Blair in Agreement Credit: Carrie Davenport
Andrea Irvine, Richard Croxford's George Mitchell and Chris Corrigan in Agreement Credit: Carrie Davenport
Martin Hutson, Ruairi Conaghan, Andrea Irvine, Dan Gordon, Ronan Leahy and Chris Corrigan in Agreement Credit: Carrie Davenport

A hit with audiences and critics on its first run last year, the return of Owen McCafferty’s Agreement to Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, en route to New York, confirms the initial impression of this incisive portrait of the negotiations leading to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 as a play of immediate and lasting significance.

Commissioned by the Michael Grandage Company, Agreement’s abiding strength is the intelligence and sure-footed construction of McCafferty’s writing, “simultaneously juggling knives and balloons,” as Richard Croxford’s suavely diplomatic go-between Senator George Mitchell pithily comments early on. McCafferty keeps both dextrously in the air. One can argue about whether this is political theatre or theatre about politics; either way it is his most acutely realised and important play to date.

On the largest of canvases—the precipitous Easter-week powwow that ended, against the odds, with a political resolution to decades-long violence in Northern Ireland—McCafferty artfully foregrounds the seven key figures who find themselves, some more reluctantly than others, sharing the same high wire balancing act without a safety net.

Infused with Northern Ireland’s distinctively dark sense of humour, and laced with a discreetly waspish commentary liberally shared between all the protagonists, it readily seizes any and every opportunity to address the audience directly. If Agreement was a libretto, Verdi would have relished setting it.

Subtle changes of emphasis, design and characterisation in a revival that features three new actors underline the political scale and personal scope of McCafferty’s writing. They are nimbly accommodated by the focused flair of Charlie Westenra’s now more lived-in and looser production, seamlessly shifting focus between the intricate latticework of public and private discourses and dilemmas at work, and back again.

A more contrarily taciturn and splenetic David Trimble than Patrick O’Kane’s original, Ruairi Conaghan seems also more authentic; his nagging back problems a manifestation of the weight of his off-stage nemesis, Ian Paisley, pressing on his shoulders. “Politics can get in the way of everything,” he pointedly complains with all the fervour of a man who has backed himself into a corner and is suddenly confronted with brute, clock-ticking reality.

Less slick than Packy Lee’s Gerry Adams, Chris Corrigan delivers a more robust and just as slyly assertive, Machiavellian creation. Also new, Martin Hutson’s Tony Blair doesn’t quite match the smarmy superficiality of Rufus Wright, but adroitly catches the Prime Minister’s needy, media-conscious solipsism.

Among the returning cast, standout portrayals of Ronan Leahy’s Bertie Ahern and the stoically long-suffering but determined John Hume and Mo Mowlam of Dan Gordon and Andrea Irving deliver more comfortable and expressive performances that provide Agreement’s human heart.

Sensitively lit by Mary Tumelty with Conor Murphy’s pitch-perfect costumes and operatically-inclined set framing Eoin Robinson’s telling video design, Agreement is a triumph for all concerned.

The run is advertised as being Sold Out. If you can get a ticket, do!

Reviewer: Michael Quinn

*Some links, including Amazon,,, ATG Tickets, LOVEtheatre, BTG Tickets, Ticketmaster, LW Theatres and QuayTickets, are affiliate links for which BTG may earn a small fee at no extra cost to the purchaser.

Are you sure?