Lies Where It Falls

Ruairi Conaghan
Fresh and Well Productions
Lyric Theatre, Belfast

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Poster image for Ruairi Conaghan's Lies Where It Falls Credit: Fresh and Well Productions
Ruairi Conaghan in Lies Where It Falls Credit: Accidental Theatre
Ruairi Conaghan in Lies Where It Falls Credit: Accidental Theatre
Ruairi Conaghan in Lies Where It Falls Credit: Accidental Theatre

A violent past haunts Ruairi Conaghan’s Lies Where It Falls, played by the actor-playwright with a painful, soul-bearing honesty at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre.

At the wounded heart of this moving autobiographical monologue lies a collision between two traumatic events. In 1974, the eight-year-old Conaghan’s “indestructible” namesake uncle, a high-profile Catholic Judge, his young daughter’s hand in his, was murdered by the IRA on his doorstep. Half a lifetime later, the memory debilitatingly resurfaced, innocently triggered by the Player King’s speech describing the atrocities of the siege of Troy when Conaghan was playing the role opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet.

It was a perfect storm waiting to happen, recurring tremors from that fateful, life-changing atrocity following Conaghan’s escape to London and echoing in the deaths of friends left behind as he found success at the National Theatre, in the West End, on Broadway and, in delightfully self-deprecating references, minor celebrity status accorded by an appearance in television hit Downton Abbey.

They came nakedly, disruptively, to the surface again when he was cast as the Brighton Bomber Patrick Magee, a test of Conaghan’s troubled psyche as he struggled to reconcile personal experience with the challenge of playing a man who seemed the very embodiment of the murderous sectarianism that had changed his life.

An approachable, amiable but pointed script collapses past and present as Conaghan’s emotions and body disintegrate leading to his hospitalisation and eventual recovery.

Adroitly plotted, Lies Where It Falls becomes as much an interrogation of Conaghan’s struggle to make sense of inexplicable violence and its poisonous aftermath as it is an exposé of how an actor plumbs the depths of his life for emotional memory in search of a character. The result is an unflinching self-portrait.

But what defines the piece is Conaghan’s soul-bearing plight as he reconciles, recovers and releases himself from recurrent trauma, aided by the support of family and friends. As such, and affectingly realised, it serves as part confessional, part self-therapy, part catharsis.

On a spare, uncredited set, with a soundtrack that ranges from Laurel and Hardy and Ennio Morricone to The Beatles and The Jam, if Patrick O’Kane’s direction suffers from occasional lapses of focus, the sincerity and courage of Conaghan’s script and performance provides a powerful experience.

Reviewer: Michael Quinn

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