Trojan horse to stalk the Apprentice Boys’ big day out

The Trojan horse which has been constructed for the performance of The Iliad at Derry Walls
The Trojan horse which has been constructed for the performance of The Iliad at Derry Walls

The annual Apprentice Boys of Derry siege commemoration parade on Saturday will provide the soundtrack to a theatrical production which will see a 30-foot high Trojan horse peer over the city’s walls.

The event, which takes place as part of the Brian Friel International Festival, will see parts of poet Homer’s play ‘The Iliad’ performed at locations in Londonderry.

Festival director Jonathan Burgess is also an Apprentice Boy

Festival director Jonathan Burgess is also an Apprentice Boy

Festival manager Jonathan Burgess explained how the ambitious piece of live public theatre came about: “It all comes from Sean Doran and Liam Brown who are the two artistic directors and producers. Sean is a great exponent of Friel. The fact that Homer was such an inspiration for Friel throughout his life, it seemed like a very natural thing to do.”

The production of The Iliad performed by actor Niall Cusack will tell the story of the Siege of Troy – complete with a 30-foot Trojan horse – in the city which witnessed the longest siege in British and Irish history (1688-89).

Mr Burgess said some comparisons could be drawn between Troy and Londonderry, in that both cities experienced sieges and “post civil strife”.

The independent theatre producer’s work includes two plays – ‘The Exodus’, looking at Protestant migration from Londonderry in the early years of the Troubles, and ‘Crows On The Wire’, based on the RUC’s transition to the PSNI.

Actor Niall Cusack

Actor Niall Cusack

He said: “I tend to tell stories that come out of the Protestant community, but this is a project that has not got to do with community relations at all – it’s to do with the art.”

Jonathan Burgess – manager of the Brian Friel International Festival who is himself an Apprentice Boy – said the arts world and loyalist culture should not be mutually exclusive.

He said: “I think people tend to think that one excludes the other – if you’re a member of a loyal order you can’t or don’t like art. That’s not true.

“The Apprentice Boys have been trying for a long time to engage with people through the Maiden City Festival which runs in the lead up to the Relief of Derry celebrations.

“These things should not be mutually exclusive. They are evidence that our society is maturing.”

Mr Burgess has been in the Apprentice Boys of Derry for 10 years and is a past president of the Campsie Parent Club – the youngest of ABOD’s eight parent clubs, formed approximately 70 years ago.

Of the annual August 12 celebrations in Londonderry he said: “It’s a very peaceful weekend by and large but there’s still kind of that perception that there will be trouble over the town.

“I’m delighted that Sean has taken the brave step of putting an arts event ‘on the walls’ over that weekend – trying to normalise the situation.

“Hopefully the noise won’t be too much to drown out the actor.”

He added: “I’m looking forward to Sean coming to see this because even though he’s a Derry man I don’t think he’s ever been in the city for the 12th of August parade.”

There will be five books from The Iliad performed at five different locations in Londonderry from Friday to Sunday.

Mr Burgess said: “There’s a stretch tent that gets put up and of course the horse.

“The two shows on Saturday are relying on the sound effects from the parade to bring some atmosphere and ambience to it.”

Tickets can be booked at www.artsoverborders.com