Belfast Telegraph

Kelly makes his stage debut in Orange play destined for Shankill and Falls

By David Young

Political commentator Tom Kelly takes on a debut acting role this week, as a defender of Lord Craigavon.

The former PR consultant is starring in a new production that puts the record of the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to a "jury" made up of the audience.

The Trial Of Lord Craigavon And The Orange Order Before The Court Of History examines the charge that both committed treason during the Home Rule crisis.

His prosecutor is John Mitchel, an unrepentant physical force Irish republican, while the character of Lord Edward Carson, who led the unionist opposition to Home Rule, defends the Orange Order against the charge of treachery.

In the produciton by Newry author Anthony Russell, Mr Kelly, a regular commentator in the pages of the Belfast Telegraph, plays Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a rebel from Carlingford who became one of Canada's founding fathers and is called as a witness for the defence.

"It's kind of a celestial court in which prominent figures from Irish history are put before the court to be tried for their actions, but the audience is the jury," he explained.

"So, at the end of the play, the audience are asked what they thought of the evidence, and whether the person is guilty or not guilty."

He confessed to some first night nerves.

"I've only agreed to do this because they're stuck," he laughed.

"And I wasn't sure when I heard it was going to both the Shankill and the Falls, because you could end up with two very different results."

It's his first performance on stage "since I was at university, a long time ago" he explained.

"It's a bit of craic for me, but the guys have put a lot of effort into it, and I think it's good in some ways that people who probably don't pay much attention to the detail of politics go as an audience, and actually watch something historical that they probably wouldn't read."

But he doesn't see acting as a new career direction.

"I think I'll stick to political comment," he added.

The Trial Of Lord Craigavon And The Orange Order Before The Court Of History will be performed on Thursday at Shankill Road Library (6.30pm) and at the Falls Road Library on Tuesday (6pm). Entrance to the play is £5.

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