THEATRE will be bringing the West to the South next month as Kabosh Theatre travel to Grahamstown, South Africa.
The National Arts Festival is the biggest in the continent and has invited the Irish theatre company to partake and share their depiction of dealing with the legacy of conflict.
‘Those Who Pass You On The Street’, written by Laurence McKeown, starring West Belfast actor Ciaran Nolan and directed by Paula McFetridge, addresses issues surrounding the suppression of grief and post-war conflict.
“Culture Ireland got the most support letters that they ever had for a production, it has been touring for four years and Ciaran is now our third Frank,” said Paula.
The play tells the story of Elizabeth, an RUC widow who is experiencing anti-social behaviour in her street. She goes into a Sinn Féin office and meets Frank, a party worker, and they strike up a friendship to the dismay and apprehension of those around them. Frank and Elizabeth’s relationship challenges not only their personal preconceptions and beliefs but also those of their family members and friends. The performance prompts the audience to think about their own beliefs, political stance and prejudices, and to see other perspectives.
With a cheeky twinkle in his eye Ciaran said his character Frank is more light-hearted than Sean Doran (Man in the Moon) yet adds that Frank has his own complexities.
“I play a Sinn Féin councillor who has lost a brother and although he feels that he has dealt with and buried his grief it emerges that he is challenged by Elizabeth and may have just been supressing his feelings,” he said.
Reflecting on how the play translates to global audiences, Paula said that whether we know it or not, living in a post-conflict community does affect subsequent generations.
“It’s all about how we deal with the past. When we have presented this play to 50- and 60-year-olds it has emerged that people of the pre-1994 era have had to suppress much of what they experienced. Unless we find a way to express this it will keep bubbling just under the surface.
“Ciaran has such a wryness about him, he brings humour into grief without dismissing such a serious issue.”
The company will spend three weeks in total in South Africa, two weeks in Grahamstown, then travelling to Ubumuntu. Each performance will be followed by a post-show discussion led by facilitators Laurence McKeown and Martin Snodden, where the themes and ideas within the play are opened up to the audience and discussed as a group.
“This is the kind of piece that we can keep reviving,” continued Paula. “People just want to talk, communities are constantly evolving.
“When we come back I would like to open this up again, targeting young adults, and there has been a lot of interest in bringing it into schools.”
Ciaran, meanwhile, looks forward to celebrating a landmark birthday while he is away, leaving his twenties and entering his third decade no longer as a vibrant prodigy, but as an accomplished actor.