In the Name of the Son
Richard O’Rawe and Martin Lynch
GBL Productions, Green Shoot Productions
Assembly George Square Studios
In 1989, the UK Crown Prosecution Service decided not to support the convictions for the 1974 pub bombings of the Guildford Four that included Gerry Conlon. The Judge said he could “only conclude that the police lied.” Finally, after some fifteen-odd years in prison for a crime they did not commit, they were released.
In an impressive, confident performance, Shaun Blaney plays over a dozen characters as he gives us the life of Gerry Conlon focusing on the post-prison troubled trauma years.
It opens and closes with Gerry close to death from cancer, reflecting on his life. There are snatches of his early life in which he claims as an only son, he was spoiled, “a cheeky wee shite” with a knack for stealing clothes and goods from shops which he sold to friends at a discount. It impressed the IRA sufficiently for him to leave for England to avoid a potential kneecapping.
He’d hoped to lead the life of a hippie in London but instead is tortured into a false confession by police wanting names for a bombing. As he later told the father of President Kennedy, the brutality of the police was so bad he would even have confessed to killing Kennedy.
Released from prison, he gives a fantastic public statement of solidarity with others falsely imprisoned. But he is riddled with guilt over what happened to his father, Giuseppe, who came to London in 1974 to arrange legal support for his son only to be arrested and falsely imprisoned as part of the Maguire Seven. He died in prison six years later, something Gerry blames on his failure to stand up to the police.
Although he continues to campaign and a book about the injustice against him is turned into a film, he finds life difficult, turns increasingly to drugs and, frittering his money away, is even reduced to eating food from bins. He is told by a friend that “he is so full of self-pity… you’ve turned your room into a prison cell.”
It is an exciting, riveting show in which Shaun Blaney conjures up scenes as different as an Oscar ceremony at which one of the stars sings to Gerry in the toilets and Gerry’s trip to Belfast where he chats with his mum. The events depicted and the narration spoken are utterly convincing. It is a shocking story we should not forget.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna