With NHS cuts, closures and scandals never out of the news, health minister Jim Wells may need to cross his fingers that a piece of theatre by Rosemary Jenkinson stays on the Lyric Theatre’s stage and doesn’t end up on his desk in weeks to come.
Directed by C21 Theatre Company’s Stephen Kelly, Stitched Up is a one act play starring Richard Clements as an NHS surgeon Aidan who has turned whistleblower in order to try to clear his name after an operation has gone wrong. His wife Kate (played by Roisin Gallagher) is a peace facilitator keen to pull down Belfast’s peace walls, and keen that Aidan switches to a more lucrative career in private medicine. Against this crisis, a stranger – Ruari (Darren Franklin) – enters their lives and causes havoc, making them question their morality and social views.
Playwright Rosemary Jenkinson told me that she likes her characters to have “big issues in life”.
It’s a moral conundrum of how they navigate through all the big issues that they face … If you devote yourself to big issues, it’s usually at a cost to your private life and your personal relationships with people.
Also I like to throw a spanner in the works, a choice will come when they really have to choose between that and maybe actually in reality doing good. In theory they’re do-gooders, but when it actually comes to the bit, are they that moral?
Stitched Up is billed as “an entertaining satirical drama” and questions how difficult it is to be moral in contemporary society.
Satire is the best way of getting your political point across but with humour … I think I’ve elements in my play of comedy, farce and straight drama … Satire is great because it really drives home your point and is also amusing and witty. I love that idea of a night out being sparkling which is what satire is.
Over recent months I’ve noticed that some playwrights have a specific message they’re intent on imprinting on their audiences, while others are upset by that suggestion and prefer to think that audience members take away their own individual meaning and challenge.
I do hope that they will go home thinking about something. But I hope that while they’re actually in the theatre they’re being entertained and they’re not aware that there is a big message behind it. You want that to seep through afterwards rather than [thinking] “I’m going to the play, oh no I’m going to be taught something” or “it’s educational”. I much prefer that they have a great time and then hopefully there will be something that stays with them.
Rosemary’s previous plays have covered bonfires, Planet Belfast dealt with GM crops, political corruption and the victims “industry”.
Our whole political system here is great for satire, totally ripe …
She describes NI as having a constant backdrop of big political questions.
I think our society is amazing … it’s not like the rest of the UK or Ireland … I like to use that uniqueness.
Some other Northern Ireland writers have started to turn their backs on the Troubles and politics: David Park post-The Trust Commissioner and Owen McCafferty (whose play Death of a Comedian is also running in the Lyric Theatre).
It comes on a play by play basis. I’m certainly not a Troubles writer … If you’re setting a play in Belfast I can’t see how you can really escape what is the local scenario. You could say: Is this too local? Is it not capable of transferring? But I think [those themes] can transfer all over the world … It’s relevant, it’s now and I love to write about what is current in Belfast … If you’ve got a post-conflict play then go to the places that are also post-conflict … a little tour to Afghanistan would be fantastic.
There’s an opportunity for the British Council!
Rosemary has been involved in the rehearsals, tweaking the text to fit the actors. But would she fancy producing and directing her own plays?
I would absolutely hate to be a director! … I think you really have to have been an actor to understand the process … at the start I didn’t have a clue about the stresses they go through. I have no aspirations, I prefer being a writer and letting someone else take control of it.
Stitched Up opens in the Lyric Theatre on Tuesday 17 February and runs until Saturday 21 before embarking on a Northern Ireland tour:
- Wednesday 25 at 8pm: Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, Newry 028 3031 3180
- Thursday 26 at 8pm: Riverside Theatre, Coleraine 028 7012 3123
- Friday 27 at 8pm: Strule Arts Centre, Omagh 028 8224 7831
- Saturday 28 at 8pm: The Playhouse, Derry 028 7126 8027
- Tuesday 3 at 8pm: Michelin Club, Ballymena 028 2566 3655
- Thursday 5 at 8pm: Craic Theatre, Coalisland 028 8774 1100
- Friday 6 at 8pm: Market Place Theatre, Armagh 028 3752 1821
- Saturday 7 at 8pm: The Courtyard Theatre, Newtownabbey 028 9034 0202
- Sunday 8 at 7pm: Cushendall Golf Club, Cushendall 028 2177 1318
- Friday 13 at 8pm: Island Arts Centre, Lisburn 028 9250 9254
- Saturday 14 at 8pm: Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick 028 4461 0747