Theatre review - Sadie by David Ireland

One of the good things about the explosion of streamed theatre in our homes is that our choice is suddenly limitless and we get to see shows that we might never have gone to in person.  

David Ireland is a Northern Irish-born playwright and actor, best known for his award-winning plays Cyprus Avenue and Ulster American. I missed Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court but caught the film version, starring Stephen Rea and directed by Vicky Featherstone, during lockdown last year.  

Ireland’s latest play, Sadie, was due to open at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. Instead it is available to watch for the next 12 months on iPlayer as part of the BBC’s Lights Up festival of streamed theatre. Filmed in an empty auditorium, Conleth Hill’s simple but effective staging retains the look and feel of a theatre production while exploiting the opportunity for screen close-ups.

Set in Belfast in 2020, Sadie (Abigail McGibbon) is a middle-aged, widowed office cleaner. Clearly smart with an acerbic tongue, Sadie has started a passionate affair with Portuguese Mancunian João (Santino Smith) who is half her age.

Sadie is haunted by two other men from her past, her uncle Red (Patrick Jenkins) and ex-husband Clark (David Pearse), a former loyalist paramilitary. Both men visit Sadie in her head. Red has been dead for thirty years so Sadie has to update him on the peace process, Brexit and Netflix.

When the cracks in her relationship with João begin to show, Sadie is forced to confront her demons. She agrees to accompany João to see his therapist Mairead (Andrea Irvine) in the hope it can mend their relationship. Instead, Sadie is triggered into having her own breakdown and what is revealed is both unexpected and shocking.

The drama’s dark comedy dissipates after we witness a brutal act of violence and learn what provoked it. Like Cyprus Avenue, Sadie is carried by its central character. McGibbon gives an astonishing performance as a damaged woman, hiding her pain behind a steely exterior.

BBC iPlayer

Originally published by Camden New Journal