Everything Between Us

David Ireland
Matthew Schmolle for The Working Party in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.
Finborough Theatre

Teeni (Katrina McKeever) has just punched Dikeledi Mashiane, the chairperson of a Northern Ireland Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in David Ireland’s fast and funny play Everything Between Us.

She is also shouting racist and sexist abuse at the black South African Mashiane as she is pulled by her sister Sandra (Lynsey-Anne Moffat) into the performance space which resembles a chaotic storage room.

Sandra is the Unionist representative on the Commission and has not seen her sister for eleven years since Teeni drunkenly waved a knife at Sandra’s baby son, Ryan.

Arguments between the sisters range from Teeni’s political objections to the reconciliation process to their personal disputes over events many years before. Sometimes these subjects overlap.

Teeni claims to have changed her life and, as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, gave up drinking alcohol three years before. She is also happily having sexual encounters with her sponsor, a man who drinks alcohol and spent time in gaol as a member of the vigilante Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

Sandra also says she is a member of AA despite never having drunk alcohol in her life. In what is perhaps meant as a metaphor of her involvement in the peace process, she describes being turned off her own church by a new clergyman and finding spiritual support in an AA meeting she stumbles into.

The play touches on serious themes of national identity, sectarian conflict and the way these affect particular families. The seventy minutes of smart, funny, well-paced dialogue never loses your attention.

Unfortunately, the themes are little more than a setting for the manic pursuit of jokes, most of which are delivered with the confident expertise of a stand-up comedian by Katrina McKeever.

It did make Teeni’s character hard to pin down. One moment she is upset by the death of Nelson Mandela who she describes as being “like a real-life Morgan Freeman”, the next she is adding him to her racist repertoire.

Only in the sisters conversations towards the end of the play do we get a sense of character emerging, but by then we have spent a good deal of time with Teeni as another stereotype of a violent, deranged Unionist and even those who regard Unionist arguments as profoundly wrong might feel dissatisfied by the cabaret caricature.

The show successfully creates entertainment out of chasing jokes but it sheds no light on the difficulties of family relationships, the traumas of people caught up in Northern Ireland’s conflict or the real continuing difficulties Britain faces in ever trying to set up a Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna