A Whistle in the Dark by Tom Murphy

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BBC Radio 3, 20 December 2009
Written when the author was just 25, and first performed in London in 1961 after Dublin's Abbey Theatre had rejected it, A Whistle in the Dark focuses on the Carney family, a group of Irish emigrants who have found work in Coventry. Michael (Aidan McArdle) lives in the house with his English wife Betty (Emma Amos), but their peace of mind is perpetually interrupted by Michael's brothers Harry (Denis Conway), Hugo (Garrett Lombard) and Iggy (David Wilmot) who are all involved in shady dealings such as prostitution and extortion. Enter Dadda (John Kavanagh) and the youngest brother Des (Martin McCann), who have both crossed the Irish Sea to join the family; Des to find work and Dadda to impose his authority. The situation is very reminiscent of Pinter's The Homecoming, and ends up in an equally violent climax.
Listening to Roland Jacquerello's production, the first-ever for radio, I was perpetually reminded of the 1999 film Fight Club: the Carney family obsessed with reaffirming its strength and identity by fighting, and subsequently vanquishing, other Irish emigrant families in the district. They were the warriors, asserting their masculinity and simultaneously perpetuating the myth of Irish invincibility. The colonized crossed the channel to take revenge on the colonizers. In truth such ideas were no more than fanciful fictions: all the male members of the family - particularly Dadda - were so inflated by their own self-importance that they failed to understand that they were nothing more than Irish yobs, the object of scorn as far as most English people were concerned. Michael tried to make them understand, but only succeeded in prompting an inter-familial fight, which culminated in Des being hacked to death with a broken bottle.
Introducing the play to Radio 3 listeners, the announcer Ian Skelly admiringly described it as a drama of "raw power." If such power requires people to resort to mindless violence, then this statement does not say much about the future of the human race. The world has moved on since 1961: plays like A Whistle in the Dark, with their conservative view of gender (active male/ passive female) are now nothing more than period-pieces.