Aesthetics and Efficacy in Community Theatre in Contemporary Northern Ireland

M. Jennings

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    First Page: On 22 May 1998, the Good Friday Agreement was ratified. Peace had been officially declared. Just over a year later, in July 1999, the Wedding Community Play was performed in Belfast. A much-celebrated event at the time, the Wedding Play took audiences into private houses inside Loyalist and Republican estates, then on to a public venue for the performance of a cross-community wedding. Gerri Moriarty has already written about some of the difficulties encountered in the production (Moriarty 20044. Moriarty Gerri 2004 The Wedding Community Play project: A cross-community production in Northern Ireland In Theatre and empowerment: Community drama on the world stage Boon Richard Plastow Jane 13 32 Cambridge Cambridge University Press View all references). I do not intend to go into the issues she raised regarding applied theatre, community and identity, although they are of great importance. Here I will discuss other issues of aesthetics, efficacy, expectation and reception, in relation to this performance and other community theatre projects developed in Northern Ireland since 1998. I will then discuss these issues in more detail with regard to a production of The Playboy of the Western World that took place in 2008, just outside Derry City, in the mass of working-class estates known as Greater Shantallow. Ivan Armstrong, former Community Arts Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, was extremely critical of the Wedding Community Play and a number of other high-profile, big-budget community theatre productions that took place in Belfast in the late 1990s: It was reasonably well done. But it required none of the actors to have any kind of real drama skills whatsoever. And this of course is part of the shortcomings of community theatre. Far too frequently, people get carried away with the event, rather than developing their skills as actors, particularly in voice production, which is usually appalling … . We ended up with scripted pieces being performed with huge production values, costing tens of thousands of pounds, in non-community venues, badly acted, badly performed and the whole thing became a kind of a laughing
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)111-117
    JournalResearch in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance,
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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