Staging the Troubles: Community identity and memory in Northern Irish Drama
The relationship between art and community is one that has been discussed, debated and celebrated in Northern Ireland. During the 1970s and 1980s, the sectarian struggle that culminated in “the Troubles” created communities characterized by violence, fear and remembered history. Religious identities intertwined with political identities; and partition resulted in community solidarity and internal opposition. To capture the complexity of a history such as Ireland’s seems an impossible task; marked as it is by colonisation, battle, internment, hunger strikes and partition. But what has fascinated writers over the years is how these events are imprinted on the individual, weave their way into the community and become the fabric of the nation. In the 1980s and 1990s, Irish playwrights, and, in particular, those in the North were being held responsible by critics and audiences for their representation of the Troubles on stage. A number of various and disparate voices emerged that were concerned with addressing the Troubles in direct and indirect ways – but each desired “to present alternative visions of the past and present in the hope of opening up new possibilities for the future” (Richtarik 201-2). I would like to address how various theatre practitioners had a significant impact on addressing the concerns of both the Catholic and Protestant communities of Northern Ireland. In particular, I will look at the emergence of the Field Day Theatre Company, founded in 1980; Charabanc Theatre Company, founded in 1983; and playwrights such as Christina Reid and Frank McGuinness. For these theatre practitioners, history is not a static removed entity but rather an essential element in individual self-definition and group identity. And it is in this dialogue between self and community that history is negotiated. I would argue, it is the dialogue between the artist and these issues that hope for the future emerges.
Dr. Rachel Tracie is an Assistant Professor of Theatre in the Department of Theatre, Film & Television at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. She teaches Theatre History, Postcolonial Theatre, Introduction to Theatre, Intermediate Acting and Directing. Her particular interests are in: Theatre History, Canadian Theatre, Contemporary Northern Irish Theatre, Modern American Drama and Postcolonial Drama. She has taught as an adjunct at Royal Holloway, University of London in England (2002-2005); Providence College, Otterburne, Manitoba (2006); Grant MacEwan Community College in Edmonton, Alberta (2001-2002); Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia (1999-2001); and the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta (1997). She received her PhD in Theatre Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2006. Her research interests include the intersection between memory and identity in contemporary drama. She has published on the use of photographic theory to explore memory in the work of Irish playwright Christina Reid, and has presented papers on memory and geography in Joan MacLeod’s The Hope Slide; and the use of public and private images in the work of Christina Reid.