New play about reconciliation from Owen McCafferty

Director Jimmy Fay, actress Ali White and playwright Owen McCafferty
Director Jimmy Fay, actress Ali White and playwright Owen McCafferty

What happens to reconciliation when there is no one specific act of violence to reconcile?

Gerry and Rosemary and Tom and Maggie are neighbouring couples who have lived through conflict from a distance. Now, nearly 20 years on from the Belfast Peace Agreement, they sit on Gerry and Rosemary’s deck having a glass of wine on a nice summer’s evening, putting the world to rights while waiting for the 11th night bonfire to be lit in the estate below. Yet there is something missing – the truth. What they actually think about each other is only ever one unguarded comment away.

Belfast playwright Owen McCafferty’s writing features the language and complexities, both comic and tragic, of Belfast life. His new play Fire Below: A War of Words

is set in real time in contemporary Belfast, giving audiences a sense of immediacy. It gives a voyeuristic insight into living in Belfast in 2017, and covers all of the issues currently in our news bulletins, from bonfires, agreements, the role of religion in politics, to the role of minority languages. It is funny, moving and truthful, and addresses the larger questions on how we can move on from our past.

Owen McCafferty is still the only playwright to have won all three top writing awards in one year: the John Whiting Award, the Evening Standard’s Charles Wintour Award for New Playwriting and the Meyer-Whitworth Award for Scenes from the Big Picture, originally produced in 2003 at the National Theatre. This is Owen’s third collaboration with director Jimmy Fay, and follows their critically successful production of Quietly which toured extensively before transferring to Broadway.

Jimmy Fay commented: “I am delighted that the Lyric and the Abbey are co-producing Owen McCafferty’s new play Fire Below: A War of Words. It is a thematic companion piece to his extraordinary play Quietly and deals with similar themes from a completely different view point. It is a wise and witty play that deals with large pertinent themes and poses a series of uncomfortable questions about the state of Northern Ireland now. This is my third time to have worked with Owen having previously directed his adaptation of Ionesco’s absurdist masterpiece The Chairs and the aforementioned Quietly. Fire Below: A War of Words seems to combine qualities and techniques from both these plays. It is like an absurdist comedy of manners, while two couples of the middle classes ignore the edge of darkness as it comes slowly creeping in.”

Gilly Campbell, drama officer at the Arts Council, commented: “Owen McCafferty is one of Northern Ireland’s leading contemporary playwrights and we are proud to help stage his latest work. A respected artist in his field, Owen’s plays are always eagerly anticipated, and Belfast audiences will be the very first to see this Lyric Theatre and Abbey Theatre co-production when it opens here in October.”

Fire Below: A War of Words runs at the Lyric Theatre Belfast from October 12 until October 29. For tickets visit or call the box office on 02890 381081.