Stuart Carolan’s Defender of the Faith returns us to those heady days when terrorists were homegrown and their most monstrous plots didn’t result in the murder of more than a few dozen. In 1986, on a dairy farm near the Northern Irish border, a father (Anto Nolan) summons J.J. (David Lansbury), a member of the IRA elite, to root out an informer in his cell. Suspicions fall upon Barney (Peter Rogan), a gentle and none-too-bright laborer. But Barney’s branding as a traitor only leads to more unrest, straining relations between the father and his grown son Thomas, (the dishy Luke Kirby).
Though billed as a thriller, Carolan’s play, directed by Ciaran O’Reilly, doesn’t offer much surprise or suspense. There’s some fine psychological portraiture, and strong performers to realize it, but the plotting comes off as more workmanlike than revelatory. The setting (which rotates from kitchen to barn) tends toward the rough and verisimilar, as does the speech: The father’s admonition that “when you’re under my fuckin’ roof, watch your fuckin’ mouth” is a typical example. Carolan’s informer play may be well-informed, but the secrets it discloses aren’t really need-to-know.