Robin Soans’s play finds the normal in the extreme
By Kevin Cullen in the Boston Globe
There was a moment when she was reading Robin Soans’s script for “Talking to Terrorists” that Carmel O’Reilly found herself almost unconsciously nodding in recognition. It was the line in which a British Army colonel remarks that had he grown up in Crossmaglen, a village hotbed of the Irish Republican Army, “I would have been a terrorist.”
O’Reilly, artistic director at the Sugan Theatre Company, grew up in a small village in County Fermanagh, a rural corner of Northern Ireland, and Catholic boys she knew joined the IRA after they’d been beaten or humiliated by British soldiers in the early 1970s. She became a teacher in a technical school, and one night she was stopped by masked men who had mounted a checkpoint. But the masked men weren’t men, they were boys — Protestant teenagers who had joined a loyalist paramilitary group to battle the IRA — and she recognized their voices behind the masks. They let her go.
The next day in school, she and the boys behind the masks greeted one another as if nothing had happened.
Now O’Reilly is directing Sugan’s production of “Talking to Terrorists,” which makes its US premiere tonight at the Boston Center for the Arts. Drawing on interviews with those who have committed, witnessed, or been victims of terrorism, the play suggests that terrorists are not psychopaths but often shockingly normal — extremists made by extreme situations.
O’Reilly doesn’t have to be convinced that, given a particular set of circumstances and experiences, anyone can become a terrorist. “I’ve seen it,” she says, “with my own eyes.”