Belfast Telegraph

The women's dramas that shed light on every stage in life

By Nuala McKeever

When was the last time you came out of a theatre having experienced something that touched you to the core? When was the last time you came out of a theatre at all? Television made us impatient with live performance for a while. The box in the corner has always been an easier option than bothering to get out and go to see a real play or show.

But we love stories. Oh we do. Every culture in the world throws up the same stories, apparently. Just in different voices, languages and contexts.

And yet sometimes you feel you're witnessing and actually part of something that hasn't been seen before.

I had this experience last week at the Baby Grand in Belfast, at the world premiere of Flesh and Blood Women. Three short plays by three different writers with one director. Everyone working in and on the production is female.

The three plays are very different but all share one stirring quality – they tell stories that haven't been articulated here before.

About a woman having six children by a man she loved, who was himself married to someone else, lived round the corner and wouldn't leave his wife.

About a child's experience of one day during the Ulster Workers' Council strike in Belfast in the 1970s, seen through the eyes of the girl living in the heart of a loyalist community.

And about two grown-up sisters unpicking what really happened years ago when one of them saw her friend being abused by a neighbour.

Rarely has a theatrical or film experience wormed its way under my skin like this production did and continues to do days after I've seen it. We are living now during events and times and news headlines that will one day be the stories that are told as the history of this time. But women's stories will not feature highly. Ordinary women. Ordinary people. Real life passion and drama to rival anything in Hollywood or the West End.

Martin Lynch, whose company produced the plays, told one of the writers, Dawn Purvis, that "everyone has a play in them".

Yes, every life, if it's told right, is a drama in which some universal truths are discovered. It takes a good observational eye and a good ear for language to bring those stories to life. But the bones are there. The bones are in your life right now. That ordinary, day to day, getting on with it, that can seem so unremarkable to you as you live it from the inside. Give it a decade or two and before you know it, it's archive-worthy history.

I wonder if real life domestic-sized history was taught in school, would subsequent generations learn more quickly the life lessons on offer from the stories of their elders? Would it wake us all up more easily to the realisation that nobody has it all sorted, nobody knows it all, everybody has secrets and fears and pains and everyone wants to belong and be seen and heard and accepted?

Would there be less of a rush to war if we absorbed more viscerally, through stories, the horror of the past ones? Would we maybe think twice before attacking another person on the basis of their being "different", if we had had a ringside seat at the telling of their own story? Would we let each other be, more readily, if we were able to see ourselves clearly in each other's stories?

In a place where we often hear the same old story, Flesh And Blood Women is an exciting, necessary, exhilaratingly different tale. Well told.

 

He’s a first rate first citizen ...

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, they say. Well, when it cometh to Belfast’s first citizen, Mairtin O Muilleoir (above), the man has just kept comething and comething this past year in office.

We have never seen the likes of it in this place! A real, livewire, with-it, out there, hard-working, dedicated, puts his money where his mouth is, whole-hearted, fun, |people-centred politician who appears to have achieved the remarkable whammy of really being a man for all the people.

To those who make the rules, please can we have him for another year at least?

If not, thanks MOM for the best year yet!

 

I’m electing to get involved

With the elections only another 15 leaflet drops away, I was thinking it would be a good idea actually to support someone I support.

To offer to do something practical, rather than simply browsing the brochures in the kitchen while waiting for the kettle to boil and then binning them with either a “Y’know, they seem like nice people” or “Oh give it up, dinosaurs!”

Just realised the only thing that stands between me and a sense of being involved, is me. Want to feel involved? Get involved!

So, I’ll be coming to a doorstep near me. Feel free to join in too.

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