“Hold on – I’ve written this before.”

Talkback’s been discussing, with Martin Lynch and Newton Emerson, the call by screenwriter Darragh Carville for Northern Irish writers to move beyond “balaclava drama”

“There’s an oddity about the theatre world in Belfast – that the audience is by and large a middle-class, relatively liberal, arty community. Yet they don’t see their own lives reflected on the stage. A lot of the plays are about poorer people, the tough working-class world, which of course is important. But what about those middle-class parts of Belfast?”

It was ever thus.. As noted at the time, Lionel Shriver has lamented the number of plays she’s sat through in Belfast..

..where people simply pony up the kind of stereotypes to which they themselves are constantly subjected.

Adds Oddly, Newton’s the only contributor not quoted in the BBC report..

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  • joeCanuck

    Well, if you want to be a successful writer, or business person or whatever, you have to keep a very close eye on what your customers want.
    Lionel Shriver sounds like a horse who has been led to the water many times and always has a drink.

  • The last play I saw in Belfast had Frank Carson and Rose Marie in it, so maybe I’m not best placed to comment on this. But it seems to me that just as there’s no good reason for staging lots of dramas about paramilitary interrogations and so on, nor is there any good reason for staging dramas that explicitly reflect the lives of the paying public in terms of their own attitudes, spaces and social status. See Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, Endgame, and so on. Clearly dramatists have to deal with what they know, and can end up obliged to produce something that’ll fill seats, but there’s no need for drama to be obvious. And whilst even middle-class Belfast may prove a good backdrop for a play, sitting watching it among a middle-class Belfast audience isn’t really my idea of a fun night out.

  • Greenflag

    ‘But what about those middle-class parts of Belfast?”’

    The long slow death of the middle class’ sounds like a great theatrical title for today’s world . All we need is a Shakespeare to put it to words . There are no end of institutional Shylocks and city governments with financial issues ?

    You can’t just rely on the boring old garden centre prod to deliver the goods when it comes to high drama . A point of course in their favour but alas not in the world of Hollywood or the stage .

    If I never have to see a play or read a book or see a film with the subject matter turned on the ‘troubles ‘ etc etc it will not be soon enough .

    If you can’t sell it best not make it . This is why collectivised debt obligations were such a successful product but then the buyers knew that did they not ? and it’s why plays about NI are passe – at least for another generation or so when some may take on the patena of an O’Casey’s ‘Plough and the Stars ‘ or ‘Shadow of a Gunman ‘ well perhaps ?

  • Where does he get the idea from that there is a surfeit of Troubles drama? I don’t see it; I think writers are avoiding the recent history because some publishers and commissioning editors are telling them they don’t want it.
    Are we to suppose that everything that is to be said about the Troubles has been said, despite the late revelations that the paramilitaries were so thoroughly infiltrated. Where’s the play about Scap or Denis D?

  • yea malachi I see where you’re coming from, but to the same extent… where are the plays about the punk scene in belfast, the amazing story of the undertones, terry hooley’s good vibrations, why can’t we have a film about giros instead of one about dennis donaldson. who gives a shit about the uvf/ira I want to see a film/play/serial on the life of Gerry Glennon. I want a film about northern ireland’s flat earthers instead of massareene revisited.

  • iluvni

    Maybe Marie Jones is hard at work writing one about a middle aged woman who put aside her prejudices and actually went and watched a NI match at Windsor Park…and, here’s the twist, loved it and found the fans and the atmosphere to be great crack altogher.

  • Ulsters hy homeland

    Noone wants to talk about the ordinary people because they were ordinary.

  • John D

    iluvni, funny you should mention “a middle aged woman who put aside her prejudices and actually went and watched a NI match at Windsor Park”. There’s an episode of Give My Head Peace that features just such a situation — set around the NI defeat of England a while back. As a relative newcomer to NI, I’m surprised how little attention the cultural high-ups seem to give to the daring of the Hole in the Wall Gang. Local situation comedy doesn’t get the kudos that beard-stroking drama does — but surely it should …

  • John D, where have you been. The Hole have had their own several tv series. Contrast that with a play that gets into the Lyric, tours to Enniskillen and Newry and is never seen again.

  • Jason

    I would like to see some sort of drama based on the Jeffrey Dudgeon case, which legalised homosexuality in Northern Ireland.

  • iluvni

    Good God, my new ideas have been done years ago by the Pain in the Hole gang?
    What a crushing blow.

  • Grassy Noel

    “where are the plays about the punk scene in belfast, the amazing story of the undertones, terry hooley’s good vibrations”

    Thankfully in turnaround if ever they were developed at all.

    Just what is it with these boring, repetitious oul farts and their misty eyed reminiscence of the punk era and arch bore Hooley’s record shop.

    To listen to them you’d think they dyed their hair, put a safety pin through their nose, went to Hooley’s shop and lo and behold the troubles ended.

    Get over yourselves, you middle class fools, a better film would be a comedy about someone trying to reform an old Belfast punk band with a legendary ‘record shop owner’ only to find they all hate and resent eachother – but he has to make it work so goes to extreme lengths to make them friends again.

    Thereby ending their troubles.

    But all the while poking fun at their pretensions, vanity, envy and endless retelling of old tales that have a new layer of fiction added to them every time.

    A group full of Joey-the-lips types.

  • circles

    An alternative ulster.

    Now make of that title what you will – but don’t be bringing me yer oul balaclavas.