The curtain rises on a scene of devastation reminiscent of the shattered ruins of Stalingrad.
Smoke hangs heavy in the air. A high wire cage, topped with razor-sharp barbed wire, holds five men – IRA prisoners – asleep in a small makeshift hut in the shadow of floodlights and spy towers.
In the aftermath of the burning of Long Kesh, the five – Lucas, Dee, Dutch, Colin and Barry – have been thrust together by circumstance.
With just the clothes on their backs and tampered food hurled into their cage by British soldiers for sustenance, they fight to survive; battle hunger; paranoia; the cold; each other.
The audience are seated in just one row. Forty-eight seats around the cage.
They are close enough to reach out and touch the men behind the wire; close enough to hear their thundering heartbeats as they brace themselves for another beating at the hands of their captors; close enough to see the tears in the eyes of one volunteer accused of informing; close enough to inhale their cigarette smoke as they share tales of teenage years and drunken conquests around the fire at night.
Over The Wire effortlessly drags the audience into this warped world, over the compound littered with corrugated iron and smashed beams and right to the heart of the action – holding our breath as Lucas attacks his fellow prisoners, accusing them of plotting against him; eavesdropping in conversations between the IRA OC and his second in command.
Between scenes the theatre is cloaked in darkness and the sound of an army helicopter assaults the eardrums of the audience.
There are scenes that are certainly uncomfortable, scenes that reached out, grabbed the audience and shook them off their seats.
With the blinding strobe light, the wailing sirens, the choking smoke, the shouts of defiance, it was difficult not to become emerged in the life of these men.
Every one of the audience became the sixth prisoner, standing shoulder to shoulder with the men as the Army came thundering in, batons raised for dishing out brutal punishment.
And every one of the audience left the theatre haunted by the ghost of what they had experienced. Such was the calibre of the acting, writing, directing and production.
Written by the multi-award winning Seamus Keenan, and directed by Bafta award winning film and television director Kenny Glenaan, ‘Over The Wire’ is a must see for anyone interested in modern Irish history.
Over the Wire continues its run at the Playhouse tonight and tomorrow night.
Tickets are £12 and £10 are available from the Playhouse Box Office on 02871 268027 or online at www.derryplayhouse.co.uk.