Writer: Stewart Roche. Performer: Neill Flemming. Run time: 17.02 minutes.
“Once you’ve seen the mask slip from society, there’s no going back.”
Our narrator is sat in a chair facing the camera head on. He is probably in his forties and looks a little tired and worn. His face and hands are grubby and there are dark shadows under his eyes. In the first few lines our narrator tells us “you know about the commune, right?”. And he begins to talk. To who we are not exactly sure but the possibilities become clearer as it goes on.
The narrative jumps back in time. Witnessing the desperate, selfish, somewhat ridiculous rush for bread and milk during the Beast from the East in 2018 triggered something in him. The everyday annoyances, troubles, the lies people tell, that had long existed inside him surfaced in a bubble of disaffection and frustration. After this he started to look for something. What? Who knows what they are looking for? He spent some time becoming a keyboard warrior before he made a connection that saw him move to a commune on the uninhabited Dawlish island off the coast of Mayo. This wasn’t just any island. In the seventies it had been gifted by John Lennon to the king of the hippies. Their commune failed but a group had recently formed that believed that it could be different. This sets in process a chain of events that are shocking, tense and unexpected.
The narrative has been very well written. Roche has done well at showing how a chain of seemingly unconnected events over several years can lead a man to make a decision which would often be seen by others as strange at best and potentially dangerous or lunatic at worst. Flemming was a great choice to embody this character. His facial expression, ticks, mannerisms, the way he eats his biscuit all go toward capturing the characters internal journey. There is an excellent use of foreshadowing at the beginning; images of blood lust, people tearing each other apart and survival come back full force. In his new path in life our narrator eventually finds a type of beautiful purity, a happiness. This also alludes to our own time as many feel the rootlessness and desire for answers and security that the narrator eventually finds. In working towards our own well being will mankind tear each other apart in a bid to be the first to an answer, to a vaccine, to be seen as in charge?
The denouement is somewhat chilling. The man at the beginning is no longer the person sat in front of us at the end. It is testament to Roche’s writing and Flemming’s performance that they take us on this journey without letting the story slip for a moment. Shard is an absorbing story that reminds how enjoyable good story telling can be.