Monday 23 September 2019

Belfast Girls down under receiving rave reviews

It's hardly surprising that Jaki McCarrick's play 'Belfast Girls' is resonating with audiences in Australia. After all, the play tells the story of a group of young Irish women who escaped the Famine by getting passages on one of Lord Earl Grey's ships to Australia.

While his Orphan Emmigration Scheme was well intentioned, the powers that be used it to get rid of women of dubious character, so that those who availed of the scheme became known as The Belfast Girls.

Jaki's rigorous research has been praised by reviewers in Australia, where the play opened to enthusiastic reviews in Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, Canberra as the debut production by the newly formed The Echo Theatre

The Camberra Times glowingly referred to 'The haunting quality of the play's message of survival and resilience' and praised 'McCarrick's insightful, in-depth research, and purposefully crafted drama is a gift for actor and director alike.'

'We see real women, bearing the burden of their poverty and struggle through dreams of escape and good fortune. We see women, true to their nature, fighting, supporting, comforting and confronting their identity during a three-month passage to a new and uncertain future. And we see women, determined to shake off the shackles of expectation and male authority.'

Critic Cathy Bannister, writing for Stage Whispers, states that 'a spark of rebellion permeates Echo Theatre's production of Belfast Girls as five women bridle against class politics.' Frank McKone of Canberra Critics Circle wrote: 'Jordan Best is to be congratulated for producing and directing this significant play". All of these critics rated the play as 'Highly Recommended.' Audiences too have loved the play, citing its 'emotional intensity' and 'brilliant performances and direction'.

Echo Theatre are currently considering further productions of the play elsewhere in Australia.

Belfast Girls was developed at the National Theatre Studio and shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the BBC Tony Doyle Award and won the Galway Theatre Festival Playwriting Prize.

The European premiere of Belfast Girls opens in Stockholm, in translation (Swedish), on November 5th.

Jaki's play has also recently been adapted for the screen and she is currently in talks with producers about this. There are UK and further American productions of Belfast Girls slated for 2020. Meanwhile, Jaki has also written the female version of her award-winning play Leopoldville which will have its first reading at RADA, London, on September 25.

The Argus