|Menin Gate Memorial|
Watching Meeting at Menim Gate in Belfast’s The Mac theatre last week, it struck me that playwright, Martin Lynch, must have the patience and courage of a Jehovah’s Witness selling bibles in Taliban country. How else can you explain Lynch’s dogged devotion to trying to make sense of that awful euphemism known universally as The Troubles?
Previously, Lynch had produced Sam Millar’s stirring play, Brothers in Arms, and Ron Hutchinson’s Paisley and Me. In my view, Meeting at Menim Gate, the third in this trilogy, is the best of the three. Not only that, but I believe this may well be the best writing ever to have oozed from Lynch’s pen. Certainly, it is on a par with his most successful plays, The History of the Troubles (accordin’ to my da), and Chronicles of Long Kesh.
Meeting at Menim Gate is the story of a former prisoner and cross-community Peace and Reconciliation beano to World War 1 graveyards in Belguim. As beanos go, this one is hardly extraordinary (in the first half of the play at least) with former foes doing what former foes do when they leave behind home shores: drinking pints to beat the band and becoming best mates – until they return to their respective homesteads. Beyond the drinking and merry-making, the potential for love is in the air when Liz, whose policeman father had been shot dead by the IRA, falls for Terry, a former IRA lifer. But what price love when Liz finds out that Terry killed her father? Can Liz forgive and forget?
This play is stuffed with humour, pathos, and at times, gut-wrenching horror. Don’t pay to see Meeting at Menim Gate if you only like happy stories with happy endings. If you want to be challenged and entertained in equal measure – as I was – go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.