Zurich by Pearse Elliott

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The Wire on BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3, 4 February 2012
Two friends, Aidan (Patrick FitzSymons), and Paul (Conleth Hill) travel from Belfast to Zurich to watch an AC/DC concert, a ritual they have undertaken for the past sixteen years. Paul has secreted a considerable amount of cannabis about his person; although arrested at Zurich airport, he claims, quite rightly, that it is for medicinal purposes. He is a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair since a tragic car accident at the age of twenty-one.
Pearse Elliott's play began as a series of short scenes, some lasting no more than a few lines of dialogue, in which Paul came across as a devil-may-care type, the kind of person who did outrageous things just for the sake of it, like hurling himself through the window of a club, just to prove to the bouncer that he could get in, despite the bouncer's determination to keep him out. Paul also enjoyed the pleasure of a brief encounter with Verity (Victoria Inez Hardy), a young American touring Europe on a shoestring. Aidan was the type of person who regularly talked to his wife back home in Belfast, despite the fact he was supposed to be on a break with his long-time best friend.
As the action unfolded, so the focus changed, as we discovered the reason behind Paul's behaviour. Since the accident his life had become almost unbearable; unable to do even the simplest things without help, he looked forward to these annual AC/DC concerts as the highlight of his year; an opportunity to let his hair down, even if he relied totally on Aidan for support. He knew - perhaps rightly - that Verity only kissed him out of sympathy for his plight, but was prepared to accept that fact.
By now, however, Paul had had enough, as he revealed to Aidan the shocking reason why he had come to Zurich. This revelation put their long-lasting friendship to the test; Aidan could not handle it at first, but eventually he understood what he had to do. During these scenes, the two characters' roles changed: Paul was no longer a Jack-the-lad figure, but someone with a clear-eyed understanding of how an able-bodied person's pity for the paraplegic's plight can ironically make the paraplegic's life even more unbearable. 
Eoin O'Callaghan's production used a series of musical themes (by Brendan Ratliff) to suggest the importance of the two men's long-standing friendship; it was the main reason why Paul continued to live. The music contrasted starkly with the sounds of Zurich night-life - the clank of beer cans, the babble of people walking the streets late at night, the incessant drum-beat playing in the local clubs.
Zurich was a powerful piece, admirably performed by the two protagonists. Conleth Hill was convincing in a difficult role which required him to cover the emotional gamut between despair and extreme pleasure.