Playwave Creative

REVIEW: Never Closer


Never Closer
Presented by Belvoir St Theatre 
Reviewed by Alexandro Gould-Arocha


Never Closer is a riveting examination of our world and the people around us set against the backdrop of The Troubles. Grace Chaple’s debut play is a moving piece of theatre that explores the intricacies of relationships, trauma, and loss. Although set in 1980’s Ireland, the play bares a haunting relevance to our current political climate. As director Hannah Goodwin states, “It is tragic that each time I have returned to this story that draws on the deep, multi-generational suffering of the Irish people, it has taken on new resonances outside of Ireland”. 

Never Closer first premiered as part of Belvior’s 25A program in the downstairs theatre with the same cast and most of the original creative team.   



The production design genuinely transports its audience back in time and across the sea. I particularly enjoyed Phoebe Pilcher’s lighting design, which shaped the passage of time between the scenes. One particularly memorable moment was when you could only see the moonlight as the friends discussed how they were getting home. This moment felt so real and authentic, it felt like a sombre ending to a crazy night. 

Both Grace Deacon’s set design and Keerthi Subramanyam’s costume design were incredibly successful in setting the scene, and as a constant reminder that this play is based during a real period of conflict. Alyx Dennison’s sound design was captivating and entrancing, with music and sound emphasising important moments.  



Emma Diaz’s performance as Deirdre was insanely captivating and driven. We connect with this character, and we are guided through the world within her context. We are invested in her relationships with every single one of the characters and it was all the more upsetting when it came crashing down. Her performance genuinely moved me, and I was on the verge of tears. I will never forget that moment in the performance when she can’t even bring herself to answer the questions of the emergency services.  

Mabel Li plays Niamh, an Irish woman who moved to London for 10 years. Li has to alternate between the Northern Irish, and upper-class British accents and makes them both believable. Her character adds a layer of complexity to the dynamics between those that stayed in Belfast versus those who left.   



Phillip Lynch plays Harry, Niamh’s British boyfriend. Lynch approaches the role with humour and a sense of naivety. The character fluctuates between moments of comedy and fierce tension, when his character rejects the idea of Irish sovereignty and is unaware of the damage caused during The Troubles. 

Adam Sollis plays Conor, a drunken man who is adamant about Irish Independence ever since his father was killed in an act of resistance. Conor leaves when Niamh arrives with her British boyfriend Harry and acts very aggressively towards Harry. I couldn't help but feel a certain element of betrayal between Niamh and Conor, as she has not only moved to London but formed a relationship with “one of them”. 

Ariadne Sgouros plays Mary, who works in insurance in Belfast before eyeing a job in New York. Her character is hilarious and witty, with distinct moments that make her stand out. 



Raj Labade plays Jimmy, a musician who has let his dreams die down for quite some time. He has an unrequited love for Dierdre, something he confesses right before the old friends start arriving at her place on Christmas Eve ten years later. He leads a song with a powerful and heartfelt voice, accompanied by his guitar. His character is one that we sympathise with and can connect to in one way or another. 

The play is a masterclass in theatre. The direction is outstanding, and the relationships between the characters and even the audience is highly engaging. We feel for these characters. We want to connect with them. We wish for their healing as if they are our own friends or family.  



Never Closer was staged at Belvior’s Upstairs Theatre from 25 May - 16 June 2024.

Production images by Brett Boardman

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