Jaki goes to Canada for play
March 18 2017 12:00 AM
Dundalk playwright Jaki McCarrick has travelled to Canada where her play ‘The Belfast Girls’ is being staged as part of the Vancouver Irish festival CelticFest this week.
At a time when the play’s theme of ‘fallen women’ poignantly resonates with the Tuam mother and baby home scandal, the production by the British Columbian theatre company Penninsula Productions, has received enthusiastic reviews.
‘BELFAST GIRLS has just opened in British Columbia to a wonderful reception – there’s been great praise for this show,’ a delighted Jaki told The Argus.
The production is directed by Wendy Bollard and the opening night of the Canadian premiere was sold out. Afterwards, the cast were treated to a backstage visit by none other than Hollywood actress Julia Stiles, who saw and loved the show.
BELFAST GIRLS opened at the Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock on March 11 from where it travelled to the Cultch Theatre, Vancouver, where it runs from March 15th to 18th as part of later shows are part of the Vancouver Celtic Festival.
Opening as it did, during International Women’s Day and when confirmation of the mass graves of over 700 babies in Tuam and the abuse of the young woman ‘Grace’ in a foster home dominates the news, the play is a timely reminder that women remain in a vulnerable position in society.
Jaki’s play tells the story of women who sought escape from the bleak life in the workhouse during the famine years by availing of an offer to transport ‘fallen women’ to Australia. It follows the story of ‘The Belfast Girls’ as they journeyed by sea to what they hoped was a new and better life in Australia.
BELFAST GIRLS was first developed at the National Theatre Studio, London in 2012 and while on the surface it is a feminist ‘Irish Famine’ story, Jaki also saw it a metaphor for the banking crisis, showing how the state takes advantage of the most vulnerable in society during a time of crisis.
This is the third international production of the play as it was previously staged in Chicago where it was Windy City Times Critics’ Pick, although it has yet to be staged in Ireland.
‘Wendy Bollard is a wonderful director and she has assembled a cracking cast and production team,’ said Jaki.’ The all-female cast includes Mariam Barry, Olivia Sara Grace, Tegan Verheul, Paige Gibbs, Amelia Ross.’
Jaki attended the opening night of the Vancouver run and will also be taking part in a Question and Answers event after the show on March 16.
‘I know a lot of writers don’t attend their shows abroad but I feel differently about this,’ she says. ‘Firstly, I’m a female playwright and the work of female playwrights is performed abroad much less, especially if it’s from a relative newbie like myself or if the work is quite political like Belfast Girls. I want to be of support to the piece and the people pouring their heart and souls into it.’
‘Belfast Girls’ was listed as one of the top five attractions of Vancouver’s CelticFest by the Vancouver Sun.
Having attended the first night, Jaki praised director Wendy Bollard & Peninsula Productions for their ‘splendidly slick and thoughtful Belfast Girls. A poetic production full of confident and intelligent choices – and with a magnificent cast, too!’
In addition, a staged reading of BELFAST GIRLS was presented by New York’s Pond Theatre Company on March 13th in New York.