Monday 22 July 2019

Jaki's play goes around the world

Jaki McCarrick’s play the Belfast Girls is proving a big hit
Jaki McCarrick’s play the Belfast Girls is proving a big hit

Dundalk writer Jaki McCarrick's award-winning play 'The Belfast Girls' has premières in both the northern and southern hemisphere this year.

The play, which was first staged in London in 2012, will have its Australian premier on August 24th at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, in Canberra. The play is being presented by Echo Theatre Company and is directed by Jordan Best, noted for her cutting-edge productions of plays by female writers.

And the European premier of Belfast Girls opens in Stockholm, on November 5th. Translated by Tove Simonsen this production of Belfast Girls is presented by Batalj Scenkonst and will run for a number of weeks. This will be the first time that the play has been translated into another language.

Announcing details of the production on Facebook, director Malin B Erikson said: 'This play by Jaki McCarrick would be an absolutely dream for any director to direct and I am over the moon to have the opportunity to make this story come alive - a forgotten story about five young women who escaped the Irish famine in 1850 to seek passage on a ship to Australia.'

'Belfast Girls' tells the story of the more than four thousand Irish women who took passage on ships from Ireland to Australia between the years 1848 and 1851 under the Orphan Emigration Scheme established by Earl Grey.

While they were supposed to be girls and women of good character, the reality was that many were prostitutes and criminals who wanted to escape the ravages of the Famine.

The play was developed at the National Theatre Studio and short listed for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the BBC Tony Doyle Award and won the Galway Theatre Festival Playwriting Prize. It has since been staged ten times internationally and is slated to be staged in Australia in August 2019 and in Sweden in November.

'Belfast Girls', which had a magnificent American Premiere in Chicago in 2015, has wooed critics and audience alike. It was Windy City Times Critics' Pick while in Portland, Oregon it was awarded Outstanding Ensemble 2017/18 (Dennis Sparks Reviews). There was also acclaim for it when it was staged in Canada.

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. Louth based Quintessence theatre company did a rehearsed reading of the play in the Lyric Theatre, Belfast last year. They are seeking Arts Council funding to stage a co-production of the play with the Lyric Theatre next year.

Meanwhile, Jaki has also written the female version of her award-winning play Leopoldville which will have its first reading at RADA in October.

The Argus