Kabosh crowns ‘The King of East Belfast’ in first post-lockdown show
Presented in partnership with the EastSide Arts Festival, the play has been written by and stars local actor Stephen Beggs, who found his inspiration very close to home.
“My father-in-law is called Clark Groves and ‘The King of East Belfast’ is based on the true life story of his grandfather, also called Clark Groves,” explained Stephen.
Before gambling was made legal in Northern Ireland, Clark Sr. was a legendary East Belfast bookmaker who strived to be both a successful bookie and a good man. Through his generosity to local people from what he called ‘this deadly business’, it was said that Clark Sr. ‘married and buried them on the Newtownards Road’.
“I’ve been really fascinated by the stories I have heard about Clark Sr. from my family for many years and I’m looking forward to breathing life into a forgotten period in the history of East Belfast,” said Stephen.
‘The King of East Belfast’ is being directed by Paula McFetridge from Kabosh, who explained some of the creative thinking behind the show and the challenges of presenting it during the COVID-19 pandemic: “At Kabosh we are always interested in looking at local politics and history from a human perspective and that is why we were so excited when Stephen told us about the story of Clark Groves. As well as being a larger than life character himself, Clark’s story also gives us a unique insight into how society operated back in 1940s East Belfast.
“We have been collaborating closely with Stephen for the past ten months to bring ‘The King of East Belfast’ to audiences. Site specific work is very important to us and staging the show in the Connswater Shopping Centre - the site of the former Belfast Ropeworks, where many of Clark’s customers would have worked - gives it a special resonance.
“Theatre is a live art form, a conversation between an actor and an audience, imagined by a playwright. We are living in difficult times and it is hard to imagine returning to communal events in the form we used to enjoy them.
“Kabosh is well-versed in staging original work in non-theatre spaces in the heart of communities. It is important to us that ‘The King of East Belfast’ is made available within government guidelines for those craving live theatre. Its realisation is difficult due to restricted numbers, the climate we find ourselves in, the financial pressure our communities are under, the necessary audience and artist protection. This project is only possible through the support of our funders and partnership with EastSide Arts Festival and Connswater Shopping Centre.”
‘The King of East Belfast’ will be a live, socially distanced performance with a maximum audience of 22 people per show. Measures which will be available to ensure audience and performer safety will include masks, sanitiser, allocated seating, restricted numbers and regulation spacing.
Welcoming Kabosh’s return to live performance, Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Drama and Dance Officer from Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) said: “‘The King of East Belfast’ promises to be a treat and a triumph from one of our most accomplished and versatile theatre artists, Stephen Beggs, with the help of the hugely experienced and successful Kabosh.
“Stephen has been working on this project through ACNI support for several years, interrogating and bringing to life characters, dilemmas and worlds from his own family history.
“The shared innovation and humanity of Stephen and Kabosh will bring us something very special here – elevating and celebrating the everyday and the local, and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.”
The 45-minute show will be performed in a unit at Connswater Shopping Centre at 8pm from August 7-9 and 12-16, and 2.30pm matinees on August 12 and 15, as part of the EastSide Arts Festival.
Tickets for ‘The King of East Belfast’ are £10 and are available to buy now at www.eastsidearts.net.