Belfast Telegraph

Holocaust play The Suitcase wins audience vote at Belfast Festival

By Laura Abernethy

The curtain may have come down on the Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival - but for one local theatre company the accolades keep coming.

From a broad field of world class international artists and productions, the winner of the Belfast Telegraph Audience Award is the locally written and produced play, The Suitcase.

We asked festival-goers to tell us which shows had their pulses racing or their toes tapping during the packed 24-day programme, which wrapped up last weekend.

Festival fans responded in their droves, with votes flooding in for everything from contemporary dance to classical music and political discussion.

But the pick of the programme for audiences proved to be Chatterbox's new play The Suitcase, which sold out all three nights of its run at the unusual venue of the Belfast Synagogue.

The play, written by Jane Coyle, interweaves three stories of hope, resilience and identity while confronting one of the darkest periods in modern history, the Holocaust.

It tells the story of a Jewish dancer who dreams of her future, an elderly man who revisits his painful past, and a grieving family who unearth a suppressed history hidden in their Belfast home.

The play proved a big hit with audiences who packed out the venue nightly in this the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Belsen concentration camps.

Writer Coyle said: "I'm so delighted to win this award.

"For me the most important thing in the writing and producing of this play was that audiences should have a good experience. It was a production that touched people's hearts.

"The reaction from everyone, from young to, in some cases, very old audience members, touched our hearts as well."

The synagogue added to the magic of the production, added Ms Coyle.

"The venue helped to make this production very special.

"We were very grateful to the Belfast Jewish community for allowing us to use the synagogue. It was a very atmospheric space and it went so well with the story," she said.

The show was produced by Ciara McCafferty and Katy Radford and stage managed by Megan Magill. The all-female production team also featured sound designer Rachel Cullen and choreographer Mags Byrne.

It starred Rosie Barry, Hannah Coyle, Mary Moulds and Seán O'Hare.

Ms Coyle added: "We had a very capable, young production team and a really fantastic cast. The way that they delivered my words was amazing. I couldn't have asked for more.

"As a small production, we're so pleased that people took the trouble to vote for us."

Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker said: "An award that is voted for by the public is always extra special, as it is proof positive of a direct connection with the audience. The Suitcase was clearly a compelling piece of theatre in a brave and inspired setting.

"The Belfast Telegraph would like to add its congratulations to writer Jane Coyle and the theatre company Chatterbox, and indeed to all those involved with this year's Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival, which has clearly enjoyed a successful run."

Belfast Telegraph


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