Both Sides Of The Story: A double-edged look at how both sides of the divide adjust to peace
Smugglers, pet owners and paramilitaries might not sound like ideal companions for a night at the theatre, but they will all be featuring in one of the more lively offerings in this year’s Festival drama programme.
The new play Both Sides Of The Story — by the critically-acclaimed Belfast-based Ransom Theatre Company — features the stories of people adjusting to life in the ‘new’ Northern Ireland, with plenty of black humour and typically sharp wit thrown in.
Robert Welch’s play, Static, forms one of the two plays in the project and follows a group of republican paramilitaries still fighting a war which has long since ended for many.
“They’re having problems adjusting to the new set of circumstances,” he explained. “There is one in particular, an old-style republican who cannot abide all this new, more bureaucratic approach of the new guard of political sophisticates who are into all kinds of compromises and procedures.
“He is locked in the past, hence the title. He has his own cohorts, young men who he is training up to follow in his own footsteps. He’s trying to create an ‘anti-body’ within the body of the state that’s evolving.”
It was while staying in hospital that the seed for the play was sown, explained Robert.
“I overheard a conversation going on at a bed near me,” said the retired professor of literature. “It was a visit of some young people to an older guy, and it was quite clear that these were worshippers at the shrine of republicanism.
“The conversation was so weird, you couldn’t make it up.”
While Robert’s play is a dark thriller, David Ireland’s — entitled Yes, So I Said Yes — has something of a more comedic feel to it.
“It’s about a guy who hears a neighbour’s dog barking at night and wants to get it to stop,” said the 35-year-old Dundonald man.
“It’s a very surreal, silly comedy. I wanted to write what might be called a loyalist play from that kind of comic perspective, which you don’t get very often.”
Although the two writers know one another, there was no collaboration between the two in writing their plays. A successful reception to this production might, however, see such projects becoming more commonplace.
For Robert, the audience reception will be the main barometer of success.
“I hope they won’t be offended, but will be amused and intrigued,” he says.
Both Sides Of The Story, October 17-28, 8pm, Crescent Arts Centre. See www.belfastfestival.com for details