Terrorists Die in Hail of Bullets Fired by Army: Theater

Tap for Slideshow
Photographer: Simon Annand/Arcola Theatre/Chloe Nelkin via Bloomberg

Greer Dale-Foulkes as Amelia, a young TV journalist, in "Gibraltar" at the Arcola Theatre in northeast London. Her documentary resembles one made by Thames TV in the 1980s.

Close
Photographer: Simon Annand/Arcola Theatre/Chloe Nelkin via Bloomberg

Greer Dale-Foulkes as Amelia, a young TV journalist, in "Gibraltar" at the Arcola Theatre in northeast London. Her documentary resembles one made by Thames TV in the 1980s. Close

Greer Dale-Foulkes as Amelia, a young TV journalist, in "Gibraltar" at the Arcola Theatre in northeast London. Her... Read More

Photographer: Simon Annand/Arcola Theatre/Chloe Nelkin via Bloomberg

Billy McColl as Tommy, a character from the Spanish underworld, in "Gibraltar" at the Arcola Theatre. The play follows drug runners and former army officers in Spain. Close

Billy McColl as Tommy, a character from the Spanish underworld, in "Gibraltar" at the Arcola Theatre. The play... Read More

Photographer: Simon Annand/Arcola Theatre/Chloe Nelkin via Bloomberg

Karina Fernandez as Rosa in "Gibraltar." The character, like the real-life Carmen Proetta, is the star witness is a TV documentary about the shooting of IRA terrorists in Gibraltar. Close

Karina Fernandez as Rosa in "Gibraltar." The character, like the real-life Carmen Proetta, is the star witness is a... Read More

Photographer: Simon Annand/Arcola Theatre/Chloe Nelkin via Bloomberg

George Irving as Nick, a veteran newspaper reporter based in Spain, in "Gibraltar." The play is by a former newspaper lawyer, Alastair Brett. Close

George Irving as Nick, a veteran newspaper reporter based in Spain, in "Gibraltar." The play is by a former newspaper... Read More

It was all over in seconds.

Three Irish Republican Army terrorists, one of them a woman, were shot dead by the U.K. army’s undercover SAS unit on March 6, 1988 in British territory at the southern tip of Spain.

“Gibraltar,” Alastair Brett’s new play at London’s Arcola Theatre, tries to unravel events. It says that truth in news reports often gets caught “between a rock and a hard place.”

The result is a sporadically inspired and often clunky, part fact, part fiction account of the “shoot to kill” deaths of Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage and Daniel McCann.

Initially, the London media were told that they had guns, refused to surrender, and were setting off a remote-control bomb to kill guards during a weekly ceremony at the governor’s house.

Brett reminds us that the three were unarmed and had little chance of giving themselves up. The attack wasn’t imminent: They had been preparing explosives stored more than 60 kilometers away, and the timers operated with a 12-hour lag.

Still, given half a chance, the “Gibraltar Three” would have been killers themselves. It’s hard to feel sympathy for them. Brett, a former London Times legal adviser (and co-writer with Sian Evans), instead casts the actors as witnesses trying to remember what happened, and journalists chasing after facts.

Nick, a veteran broadsheet reporter -- played with tousled understatement by George Irving -- says his tabloid colleagues happily make up quotes. He then cries, “I didn’t write that, I was subbed,” when his own report is rewritten by an editor.

Drugs Smuggling

Nick probes links with IRA drug smuggling, and visits Tommy (Billy McColl), a cardboard-cutout Costa-de-Crime delinquent.

He is beaten to a scoop by young TV producer Amelia (Greer Dale-Foulkes). Amelia makes a documentary titled “Ambush,” only to realize that her source is an unreliable onlooker, Rosa (played by Karina Fernandez, who outshines the other three.)

This mirrors real life. Thames TV’s “Death on the Rock” relied on a witness, Carmen Proetta, who was vilified by the British media.

While we’re told that the court and parliamentary statements in the play are based on transcripts, it’s not always clear what’s real and what’s imagined. James Robert Carson’s stripped-down production gets confusing when the actors double up as barristers or jury members. Rating: **.

Until April 20 at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL. Information: +44-20-7503-1646; http://arcolatheatre.com.

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars, Rich Jaroslovsky on tech and Lance Esplund on U.S. art shows.

To contact the writer on the story: Mark Beech in London at mbeech@bloomberg.net or http://twitter.com/Mark_Beech.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.