Acclaimed Belfast playwright Marie Jones, famed for her tales of life in Ireland, brought the story even closer to home when her latest play Dear Arabella opened at the Lyric Theatre this week.
Drawing inspiration from her own life growing up on the streets of East Belfast, Dear Arabella tells the story of a seemingly inconsequential and all too brief meeting of three very different women and the profound impact that has on their lives.
Just like the play’s central character Jane, Marie grew up on the ‘dark side’ of an East Belfast street surrounded by strong matriarchal women. “I was inspired by my own background,” explained Marie. “It was a very female society I lived in with strong, stoical women.
“They did whatever they had to do to make life acceptable and bearable and sometimes that was just a tiny thing. The door to someone’s destiny can open with a very tiny crack.”
Directed by Lindsay Posner and starring Laura Hughes, Lucia McAnespie and Katie Tumelty, Dear Arabella begins with Jane who is desperate to escape her life trapped on the ‘dark side’ of the street, even if it is for just one day. Hopping on a train to the seaside, a brief encounter with another lady on the train, who insists on sharing her picnic, and an equally as brief meeting with ‘Arabella’ on the beach has a life changing effect on each of the three women.
The play began life as a single monologue three years ago for a project at the Old Vic in London, Marie explained.
Following its success, she was encouraged to expand the monologue into a full play and share the stories of the other women Jane meets on her day out.
“I was really pleased with the reaction on the opening night,” admitted Marie. “I love when my plays are in my home town.
“It has to have the stamp of approval from people from here and if it didn’t have that I would be worried about taking it anywhere else.”
Full of raw emotion, blended with a humour that Marie Jones is renowned for, Dear Arabella is a compelling piece of theatre that will stay with you long after you have left the theatre.
Dear Arabella runs at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast until November 10. Tickets are on sale from the Box Office on 028 9038 1081 and online at www.lyrictheatre.co.uk.