Belfast Telegraph

'Disappeared' uncle inspired The Ferryman, says star of The Fall

By Noel McAdam

A Belfast-born actress has told how a new play set in Troubles-torn Northern Ireland was inspired by personal tragedy.

Laura Donnelly was a child when her uncle Eugene Simons was taken away by the IRA, shot dead and dumped in a bog.

Mr Simons, one of the so-called Disappeared, went missing from his Co Down home in January 1981. His body was later discovered by chance in a bog near Dundalk, Co Louth.

The story is retold in The Ferryman, a play by Jez Butterworth being staged in London, which Laura stars in.

She plays a woman whose husband's body is accidentally uncovered a decade after he was secretly buried - sparking a wave of violence and stirring up forgotten memories.

The actress, who was in The Fall, said the play had been "extremely cathartic".

She said her uncle's murder was "a very, very cruel thing".

Mr Simons, a father-of-three, was 26 when he vanished from his home near Castlewellan. In May 1984 his remains were found in a bog near Dundalk.

Laura, who was propelled towards a life on the stage after attending the Patricia Mulholland School of Irish Dancing, said her family was grateful their loved one was not missing as long as some of the other Disappeared.

"He was my mother's brother and disappeared the year this play is set, 1981," she added. "He was found by accident in 1984 in a bog by a man walking a dog.

"My mum and many other members of my family are just grateful that it didn't go on as long as some did - most other families had 10, 20, 30 years. It's a very, very cruel thing."

Mr Butterworth, who previously worked with director Sam Mendes on several Bond films, said talking to Laura about her uncle was central to the drama, which also stars Paddy Considine.

"When somebody disappears for 10 years, time stops, which is what I really think the play is about," he said.

Laura said her family urged her to accept the part, adding: "It was very important for me for this story to be told."

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