THE CAVALCADERS
Tricycle Theatre, London NW6
Opened 7 January, 2002

**** Another slice of almost perfect heartache by Billy Roche

A year ago the Tricycle revived Roche's Wexford Trilogy; now his 1993 play about a small-town singing group returns.

There's one scene just before the interval which is so brilliant that it should be taught in courses everywhere. When cobbler Terry rows with young Nuala about their furtive affair (furtive because Terry has an emotional history that he doesn't want to be seen publicly betraying), we gain insights into the histories and personalities of both characters and their interaction together as well as seeing events driven forward.

The rest of Roche's story in which he himself gives an unobtrusively efficient performance as Josie, the oldest and most frivolous of the group is in the familiar territory of betrayals by friends, little but heartbreaking, and burdens that never go away with time. It strikes the heart with a delicious pain that both speaks directly to our personal hurts and reassures us that they are universal.

Things go badly awry in the final twenty minutes, as Roche tries to cram in far too many darts of poignancy and dramatic irony in a kaleidoscope of fevered flashbacks which even Liam Cunningham's excellent central performance cannot carry. But for two hours the play rings like the finest songs of love and loss that Roche so cherishes.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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