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Mojo Mickybo: Belfast’s original loss-of-innocence tale returns to home stage next week at The Mac


Mojo Mickybo actors Michael Condron (left) and Terry Keeley

Mojo Mickybo actors Michael Condron (left) and Terry Keeley

Terry Keeley and Michael Condron star in Bruiser Theatre Company's Mojo Mickybo, which plays The Mac Belfast next week after a successful tour

Terry Keeley and Michael Condron star in Bruiser Theatre Company's Mojo Mickybo, which plays The Mac Belfast next week after a successful tour

Jonjo (Niall Wright) and Mickybo (John Joe McNeill) in the film Mickybo and Me

Jonjo (Niall Wright) and Mickybo (John Joe McNeill) in the film Mickybo and Me


Mojo Mickybo actors Michael Condron (left) and Terry Keeley

It was hailed as the best coming-of-age film about Belfast long before Sir Kenneth Branagh's Oscar-winning movie hit the big screen.

Now, the play, from which the 2004 film Mickybo & Me was adapted, is returning to a home stage ahead of its 25th anniversary.

Mojo Mickybo, written by Owen McCafferty, is currently wowing audiences in London and is returning to Belfast next week for a five-day run at The Mac.

Presented by Bruiser Theatre Company, the play is set in Belfast in the summer of 1970 and tells the story of two nine-year-old boys from opposite sides of the divide, who form a close friendship. Sharing a love of the film Butch Cassidy And the Sundance Kid, Mojo (Michael Condron) and Mickybo (Terry Keeley) are two young cowboys in the making, with The Troubles barely impacting on them, until their bond is destroyed in a way that they only come to understand later in life.

Condron, who appeared in two seasons of Game Of Thrones, Soft Border Patrol and Doineann, starred in one of the original stage shows with Kabosh Theatre Company, playing Mickybo on that occasion. This time, he takes on the role of Mojo.

He said that coming back to the play gave him the opportunity to reconnect with his childhood and a renewed appreciation for the “resilience” of Northern Irish people and what they had been through.

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“We all let our childhoods go when we get to 13 and move on to secondary school where we have to deal with peer pressure and wanting to be seen a certain way,” Condron said.

“At that age, we release and relinquish our childhoods But coming back to the play has given me a great opportunity to reconnect with my childhood; to be in touch with those feelings I had as a child, without feeling embarrassed, and to see things through a child’s imagination.

“This time round it’s slightly different, because at 44 I’m bringing my older, more mature head to it.

“It’s not a play about The Troubles, but when the sectarian element raises its ugly head, as it does, I’ve found that aspect quite painful this time.

“It brings home to me the resilience of the people here, which we don’t even realise we have because we were made to just get on with it and were pretty much left to fend for ourselves.”

McCafferty’s play was adapted for the big screen 18 years ago by writer and director Terry Loane, who is due to direct Pierce Brosnan in the upcoming film The Last Rifleman. 

Hinds, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Pop in Branagh’s Belfast, starred in the movie Mickybo & Me alongside Julie Walters, Adrian Dunbar and Gina McKee. The roles of the two young boys were played by John Joe McNeill and Niall Wright.

The current stage incarnation toured regional theatres of Ireland before moving on to London, where it’s been receiving rave reviews. Described by London Theatre 1 as a “fascinating and thoroughly engrossing piece of writing brought to life by two amazing and talented actors”, the play examines the loss of innocence in childhood — a theme also explored in Branagh’s semi-autobiographical film which won its writer and director the Best Original Screenplay Oscar at Sunday night’s ceremony in LA.

Much like Branagh’s parents, Condron’s mum and dad left Northern Ireland to escape the violence and emigrated to Toronto, where the actor was born. But when he was just one year old, Condron’s homesick family moved back to Belfast, where he has lived and worked ever since.

Condron said he was incredibly proud to be from the city and to witness the ongoing success of talent from here.

“When Mojo Mickybo first went to London, Owen McCafferty had another play, Scenes From The Big Picture, being staged there around the same time,” he said.

“All these years later we see the success of Game Of Thrones, which filmed here for 10 years and saw its crew universally praised.

“We’ve seen the recent success of Belfast the film and Derry Girls. When we collate all that, there’s one common denominator — home.

“What we produce is world class, Oscar worthy. For such a small place, we have great talent and resources and that all goes back to the resilience of the people and because we’re bloody good at what we do.”

Mojo Mickybo, directed by Lisa May, runs at The Mac Belfast from Wednesday April 6 to Sunday April 10.

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