Martin Lynch's Chronicles of Long Kesh, which finishes its debut run at Belfast's Waterfront Hall this evening, should perhaps have been subtitled Carry On Up The Kesh, such was its jokey tone and lack of any intellectual or political depth.
I'd never seen a Lynch play before, so I had nothing to measure it against, although it was hard not to be reminded of Steve McQueen's 2008 film, Hunger, which told the story of the 1981 Hunger Strikes on a painfully stark canvas. While McQueen explored the tensions between the main players, underlined with brutality and political self-determinism, Lynch resorted to folksy sitcom.
It might be unfair to compare The Chronicles of Long Kesh with Hunger, but it speaks volumes that the former was produced by a black Englishman, while the latter seemed to have dropped off the local Arts Council-funded conveyor-belt populated by the same old writers with little new to say.
Lynch is clearly a populist, but there is something deeply unsatisfying about reducing the story of Long Kesh to a series of cliched and comedic set-pieces that would not have looked out of place in an episode of EastEnders. Republican and Loyalist prisoners were presented as cyphers, despite the best efforts of a decent cast, and women were portrayed as needy housewives.
By the end of the whole thing, the experience became suspended somewhere between The Full Monty and the denouement of The History Boys as we got a singsong and a roll-call of the eventual fate of each character. In short, Chronicles of Long Kesh was theatre-by-numbers.
Martin Lynch, step up to the podium and accept your turnip.