Never Closer

Natasha Ciesielski
7th Jun 2024

Never Closer is a Belvoir St Theatre success, having premiered (in 2022) at the downstairs 80-seat independent 25A theatre for emerging and independent artists, its now moved upstairs to the big theatre. Something that hasn’t happened at Belvoir for 17 years.

Australian writer Grace Chapel’s debut play, Never Closer is a tense production with complex characters living through the Troubles in Northern Ireland. But this play isn’t about the Troubles, it explores friendship, love, resentment and forgiveness.

It’s Christmas Eve in a little town along a contested border in the north of Ireland. Deidre (played by Emma Diaz) is telling a ghost story, Jimmy (Raj Labade) is playing the guitar and the group are singing, dancing and drinking whiskey. The teenage friends are in high spirits, as they farewell Naimh (Mabel Li) who is leaving to study in London.

Fast-forward ten years to 1987, still in Deidre lounge room and once again it’s Christmas but the group aren’t so chumy. Then Niamh, who hasn’t been home in all that time, returns with a Posh English accent and a pommy fiancé. As the drama unfolds, umbrage brews and arguments arise.

Retaining the original cast from 25A was a great move by director Hannah Goodwin.

Diaz is powerful as the lost Diedre. The bottled-up anger she feels towards her old friend builds and explodes into a raw torrent of rage. Philip Lynch (as Harry) stands out with his English accent against all the Irish voices. He tries so hard to be part of the group, joining in on the drinking games even when it’s clear he doesn’t have the Irish constitution. Interjecting with ignorant questions like “isn’t this technically Ireland?” that causes the audience to collectively groan. His role, Chapel’s clever way of bringing levity to the production.

Where Harry is lightness, unhinged Conor (Adam Sollis) is a heavy weight, drowing his emotional wounds in alcohol and fury. He doesn’t hold back in revealing his turmoil and grief.

Credit also goes to Li who expertly switches from the Irish to English accent.

Never Closer will resonate with many, whether you’re aware of The Troubles, see reflections in the war in Ukraine or now, Gaza.

It’s a play with heart and a reminder of friendships of old, that time moves on, not always in the direction we wanted but there’s regenerative hope for the future.

Compelling watching; audiences will laugh, cry and gasp in horror. Four and a half stars.

Running for 1 hour and 40 minutes (no interval) Never Closer is playing now at Belvoir St Theatre till the 16th June. 

For tickets visit》

Photos by Brett Boardman>/i>