Addressing the legacy of inter-communal violence through drama: mainstream theatre and community drama

De Ornellas, Kevin and Mac Cathmhaoill, Dónall (2021). Addressing the legacy of inter-communal violence through drama: mainstream theatre and community drama. Glencree Journal, 2021 pp. 164–174.



Professional theatre writing that explores the conflict has a long history in Ireland, from O'Casey to Mitchell by way of Thompson, Reid, Jones and Lynch. Many plays have radically reframed the public debate about conflict-related issues, challenging the certainties of community and identity. The binaries of the conflict have also been challenged through community and applied drama projects. The authors show that single-authored professional theatre continues to provide a critical mediation on our recent history; and that while they engage conflict issues ideologically, multi-authored and co-created applied theatre works challenge the issues structurally.

Notable applied theatre projects, such as the Derry Playhouse Theatre of Witness project, the work of writer/director John McCann at Tinderbox Theatre Company and the Derry Frontline projects have created innovative theatre productions with ordinary people that deal directly with the conflict. Theatre of Witness practitioners worked with those directly affected by conflict violence; the process involved participants working from personal testimony themed around specific events, creating a piece that was performed in the Playhouse. Tinderbox Theatre Company developed many community projects, such as Turning the Page, which were co-authored by those involved — participants from working-class Loyalist and Republican communities in Belfast who then performed the work. And at Derry Frontline extensive development workshops produced a core narrative and characters for a play that was then scripted by the company director, Dan Baron Cohen.

Ultimately we both celebrate the role of drama in promoting dialogue between one-time opposed communities and describe a fluid, changing and ongoing tradition of dialogue through drama.

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