It’s hoped that Crimea Square, a play about the history of the Shankill Road using local actors including east Belfast playwright Marie Jones, will help revive interest in community theatre as well as being a curiosity and highlight on this year’s Belfast Festival at Queen’s line-up.
Written by local people Sally Cochrane, Johnny Dougan, Albert Haslett and Jacqueline Nicholson and directed by Jo Egan, the play opens at the Spectrum Centre on the Shankill Road on October 17.
The historical drama covers major events from as far back as 1912 up to the modern day and includes real stories and key events in the life of this unique Portestant community - the signing of the Ulster Covenent, the Battle of the Somme, the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969, up to the ongoing efforts to revitalise the Shankill today.
Hugely successful playwright Marie Jones, who has made a name for herself in bringing the wisecracking and slegging and Belfast-ese slang to the stage to hilarious effect, will take to the stage in Crimea Sqaure for the 11-night run of the play at the Spectrum Centre.
Marie will also be joined by her son, actor Matthew McElhinney, Jo Donnelly and Marty Maguire, alongside a 35-strong cast of people from the Shankill in this large-scale production.
“As soon as I was asked I said yes,” said Marie Jones. “Not only is this an opportunity to take part in a great community project but it also allows me to give something back to a community that has given me so much.”
Director Jo Egan added: “I’m delighted to say the level of commitment and involvement from so many people from the community on the Shankill Road has been humbling. Their support in getting behind this play and creating a real buzz has made this a special experience. I hope the community will be proud of everyone’s efforts.”
One striking feature of the production is the background screenings of film footage charting the history of the Shankill Road and its people. The play also contains especially commissioned music and songs featuring local singer Kirstin Aston.
“Crimea Square is not only an important play about the social history of the Shankill Road and its people but it’s also a fine example of arts engagement with local people given that a significant number of the cast are from the area,” said Noirin MCkinney, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, “It is also pleasing to see the Belfast Festival at Queen’s spreading out across the city and reaching out to new audiences.”
Crimea Square, October 17-27, Spectrum Centre, Shankill Road as part of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s. Call 02890 971197 or visit www.belfastfestival.com.