A NEW play exploring the legacy of Paisleyism in Ulster began a five-night run in Belfast’s Grand Opera House on Tuesday night.
Paisley & Me, which has been penned by Co Antrim-born writer Ron Hutchinson, delves deep into his own Islandmagee upbringing and how he is now perceived around the world as a Protestant from Northern Ireland.
Dan Gordon stars as the ‘Big Man’ himself and gives a powerful performance in the four-actor play.
The storyline charts the rise to prominence of the unionist firebrand preacher and politician – and how the turbulent events of the day were impacting on a typical Protestant family in south-east Antrim.
The playwright, who left his birthplace as a young man and now lives in the US, is represented on stage by actor Steve Blount who conjures up the ghosts of his parents and the living presence of Dr Ian Paisley in a rural graveyard.
Part of this year’s Ulster Bank Festival at Queen’s, it has been produced by local playwright Martin Lynch – who has described the work as reflecting “radical change” within the Protestant community after over a century of predictability.
Despite convincing portrayals of the four characters on stage – particularly by Lalor Roddy as the father – it appeared to me that Hutchinson’s viewpoint comes across as that of an outsider showing little or no empathy with, or understanding of, the unionist condition, rather than a son of Ulster returning to his roots.
The play is the second part of a trilogy examining Ulster almost two decades after the ceasefires.
Following the Grand Opera House run, the production goes on a short Northern Ireland tour beginning in Ballymena’s Braid Arts Centre on Monday, November 5.
For tickets contact the Opera House on 028 9024 1919 or visit www.goh.co.uk