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Dirty Hands
Published on Friday, 24 August 2012
3

3 stars

Sweet Grassmarket (venue website)
Theatre
19-24, 26 Aug, 3:40pm-4:40pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

There are a lot of topical shows at this year’s Fringe, and IRA rebellion in Ireland has always been a popular choice for Fringe theatre. So Dirty Hands had to be a smart, hard-hitting and fierce production to stand out. DBS Prductions manages to hit two of the three marks with their (smart and hard-hitting) drama, but I felt it was missing a lot of that fiery spirit that a production with this subject matter should have.

The play tells the intriguing story of an IRA assassin sent to kill his rather aptly-named leader, Moriarty. DBS Productions do an amazing job working with the limited space they have. International 4 isn’t the biggest venue at Sweet Grassmarket, and it’s admirable that they can manage to fit anything larger than a one-man show in the space. So on the plot and staging fronts, Dirty Hands gets a top score from me.

It’s not a very fast-paced production. At times it feels like it’s not going anywhere, but it’s this building of suspense that makes the high points so effective. It does have a wartime feel to it – long periods of nothing, then suddenly an explosion or a gunshot that makes the audience collectively jump three feet in the air. It certainly creates a powerful and believable atmosphere.

But the performances are varied. Personally, I thought Moriarty stood out as a spectacular character, and was impeccably acted. Some of the accents, however, are more than questionable, and did detract slightly from my enjoyment of the play as a whole. The writing is clever, but not without its faults, and some excellent examples of that quintessentially Irish dry humour could have been delivered better by some of the cast.

At times, I think the writers tried too hard to be complex. There were a few opportunities to cut the production a little shorter, which would have allowed them to dedicate a little more time to making the end of the play more conclusive. It’s always a sign that your ending needs tweaking if the audience doesn’t know to clap until the lights are turned on and the charming venue staff are ushering you out.

Overall, it’s an interesting and commendable production but unfortunately, unlikely to be a memorable one. Amongst the deepening pool of politically-driven theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe, Dirty Hands needs a little more spark and finesse to really make people pay attention. And perhaps a more believable stage pistol.

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