27 May 2005

Edinburgh Evening News

Ex-IRA prisoner's violent play to get star billing at Fringe

27 May 2005

A HARD-HITTING play by a former IRA prisoner is to be given star billing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it emerged today.

The Wrong Man, written by ex-Sinn Fein spin doctor Danny Morrison, is expected to be one of the most high-profile shows at The Pleasance this August.

Its writer has served time after being convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to murder.

The plot centres on an IRA cell and ticket-holders can expect graphic violence on stage.

The play features a largely Northern Irish cast and is the first production by the New Strung Theatre Company.

Belfast-born Mr Morrison, who spent eight years behind bars after being caught in a house where an IRA informer was being interrogated, was Bobby Sands’ official spokesman during the hunger strikes in the 1980s. Sands was the first of the hunger strikers to die.

Mr Morrison, who claims to have given up political activism when he was released from jail in 1995 during the IRA ceasefire, has already written a string of books.

The Wrong Man is his debut play, which he says has so far been shunned by theatres in Dublin and Belfast because of political prejudice - a claim strongly denied by leading venues.

Mr Morrison, who joined the IRA as a teenager, has been one of the closest aides to both leading Sinn Fein party figures, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, in the past, thanks to his former role as Sinn Fein’s national director of publicity.

His play - billed as offering audiences the chance to catch "a glimpse inside the IRA" - is said to focus on the final days of an IRA informer and the fear and paranoia caused by "the knowledge of an informer at work".

It has already sparked controversy with a three-week run in London, which began just after the notorious murder of Robert McCartney. Ticket-holders will have to be aged 16 or over to be admitted to the venue in Edinburgh because of the terrifying scenes of violence and the harrowing subject matter featured.

Mr Morrison, who famously urged the Republican movement to pursue its strategy with "an Armalite in one hand and a ballot box in the other", told the Evening News he felt audiences in Edinburgh would be "broad-minded" enough to accept the play’s subject matter.

"I’m sure nothing like this will have been at the Fringe before. I’m really looking forward to it.

"I’m sure audiences are going to respond to it well. There’s a lot of violence and a lot of passion in the play, but in my experience Edinburgh audiences are pretty broad-minded."

The show’s promoter Dan Pursey said the show would provide "a unique view inside the IRA".

Liberal Democrat MSP Donald Gorrie, one of the leading campaigners against sectarianism in Scotland, said: "It’s really up to audiences and critics to make their own minds up, but it’s not very helpful with all the efforts that are on-going to tackle sectarianism."

However, city Tory councillor Alastair Paisley said: "I think we can well do without this kind of thing at the Fringe.

It sounds completely abhorrent."

First Minister Jack McConnell’s office declined to comment today.

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