Tilers give in to temptation

Four workmen turn to thievery in Prime Cut’s production of Owen McCafferty’s Shoot the Crow, Colette Sheridan reports

SHOOT the Crow, a touring play about the working man and male relationships, opens at the Everyman Palace Theatre on April 2. Shoot the Crow was written by Owen McCafferty and first produced by Druid 15 years ago. This new production is by the Belfast-based Prime Cut theatre company.

Shoot the Crow is a homage to the ordinary man and centres on a day in the life of four tilers at work in a new apartment development. Tied to low-paid jobs from which escape seems impossible, the men realise there is an unaccounted for pallet of luxury tiles which they can steal and sell off.

Their ambitions are modest. There’s Ding Dong, who is coming to the end of his years as a tiler. Apart from a thank-you note from the boss, he has little to show for his lengthy years of toiling. He tries to encourage Randolph, an apprentice, to pursue his dream of travelling through France on a motorbike.Petesy is trying to find money to pay for his daughter to take part in a school exchange. And Socrates badly wants a reconciliation with his wife and son. He is a serious type who expresses unwelcome emotion, making for some comedic moments.

Packy Lee, who also stars in the Oscar-winning short film, The Shore, plays Randolph. He says the play “is Owen McCafferty at his best. It’s written in Belfast dialogue with wee slang words included. People might initially wonder what we’re talking about, but after the first three minutes, the audience clicks into it. Owen has a wonderful ear for conversation. The dialogue is very natural, the kind of talk you’d hear on a building site.”

The play is easy to identify with, says Lee. “It’s about reality; it’s about work and money. Now that people are struggling, you can almost sense the audience knowing that the pallet of tiles is important. When you’re going to steal something, you have to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. The play is a comedy heist.”

Randolph and Ding Dong see the opportunity to make some extra money. “What they don’t realise is that the other two men also recognise the opportunity. There’s a moment when Ding Dong and my character try to get the others out of the room. It’s a classic comedy moment and is very funny. Everyone will relate to it, whether you’re a man or a woman. When you look at the characters, you see your brother or your father or your husband.”

The comedy drama “is also about the relationship of workmates. And it deals with the respect that people earn through work. There’s a line in the play about not being able to do without work. Without it, the head goes. But people can be stuck in ruts in their jobs. When you have work, you complain about it all the time. Beautiful points about work are made from the different generations on the stage.”

Randolph is a dreamer. But what he is dreaming about isn’t impossible. He’s young enough to earn the money to buy a motorbike and take off. “But the thing that keeps us all down is that we never earn enough money to do what we want. Or we fall into the trap of meeting someone, which dictates our lives. We end up with people. You can call that a trap. You can’t always fulfil your ambition, because other people are involved.”

Following the Oscar success of The Shore, Lee says he’s very proud of his involvement in the film, directed by Belfast director, Terry George. The film, which also stars Ciarán Hinds, Conleth Hill, Kerry Condon and Maggie Cronin, is about a man who emigrated to America 25 years earlier to escape the Troubles. He is now bringing his daughter back to his homestead to meet his childhood friends.

“I didn’t go to Los Angeles for the Oscars as I was in rehearsals for Shoot the Crow. I can’t stress how amazing it is to have got an Oscar and how surprised I am. I’ve done a lot of films. Never once do you think for a second that your film is going to be nominated for an Oscar, let alone win one. I was in my home at 3am watching the Oscars and thinking it would be amazing if they showed a clip of me. They did. And when they announced we won, they showed an even bigger clip of me on my own in the film. There was a close-up of me and when the camera turned to the audience, I see these stars like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. It has been a great showcase for me. My agent’s phone is on the go all the time.”


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