On McQuillan's Hill

Review: Finborough Theatre’s On McQuillan’s Hill is absolute riot

By Tom Holmes
February 10 2020, 10.05

On McQuillan’s Hill is a very Northern Irish play.

It’s a Northern Irish play in the fact that it was written by an Ulster playwright, Joseph Crilly.

It’s a Northern Irish play in the sense that it’s set in a small town in Northern Ireland, with a cast of Northern Irish characters.

But above all else, it’s a Northern Irish play in that it tackles quintessentially Northern Irish subject matter.

Ex-IRA man Fra Maline is released from prison and comes home to a daughter that has questions about her heritage, a sister who is unexpectedly back in town, and a partner who is now married.

FRENETIC: On McQuillan’s Hill’s second act never relents

Maline has questions of his own, as to how and why he ended up going to prison in the first place, and the action all takes place at the town’s community hall, On McQuillan’s Hill.

To say more about what unfolds would give away the truly bonkers nature of what comes next.

It’s an unbelievably frenetic play, as the second half lurches from one revelation to another, barely giving the audience time to breathe or absorb the information they’ve received before dropping more on it.

The pace, content and intimacy of the Finborough Theatre’s setting make this a play that won’t appeal to everyone.

It has a lot to say about the IRA, but also never lets the politics overtake the tortured and twisted nature of the family dynamics at the play’s heart.

And that’s why On McQuillan’s Hill works, because the colourful set of characters at the play’s heart are so absolutely twisted.

The acting is stellar, as the anger, resentment and bottled up guilt of the play’s characters explodes until there’s nothing left to give.

It’s a race to the finish, as everyone gets the answers they demand and is able to work out their frustrations on those who wronged them.

In many respects the pacing is the play’s strength, as the fact that the characters don’t get moments for quiet reflection throughout the bizarre second half.

But the fact that the characters don’t really get a chance to swill on the revelations until the very end of the play is a shame, because it does slightly rob the satirical nature of the emotional weight that could take it up a notch.

Nevertheless, On McQuillan’s Hill is a fun and strange satire that I thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend.

McQuillan’s Hills runs until Saturday February 29 at Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, SW10 9ED. You can buy tickets here.

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