Queens of the Island Field’ promises a theatre evening with a difference for Limerick audiences this week, with The GAFF’s collaboration with various community groups taking the stage.
“This project comes at the end of a three-year period where The GAFF has been working with a number of communities,” explained Monica Spencer from the local theatre and performance practitioners and facilitators.
The genesis of ‘Queens of the Island Field’ goes back to when The GAFF’s chairperson Mike Finn wrote ‘Field of Dreams’.
“He wrote the play based on conversation he had with senior citizens in St. Mary’s Park about life there in the 1950s and 60s. It was a quite nostalgic and really beautiful piece, and we put it on in the community a few years ago. The reaction was great but some people thought that it was perhaps too nostalgic, so we decided to make a more contemporary piece,” Monica told Limerick Life.
In order to do just that, she started workshopping with a younger generation from that same community. The result is ‘Washed Up, a short play that Spencer describes as a “very funny and quite poignant” piece, which sits alongside ‘Field of Dreams’ for this special production that debuted at Belltable last night (28 November) and will be performed this Wednesday and Thursday (29 and 30 November).
It is very much a devised script, with much of the content coming from those young members of the community who are also starring in the production, as Monica emphasised in our conversation. “I wrote it, but I’d be like a technical writer. I just hung around with the girls and the youth leaders and listened to them and came back with ideas to them.”
She noted that there were many occasions when she did not quite exactly get the tone or syntax write from the conversations and workshops she took part in, and that the participants were quick to let her know. Someone as old as myself isn’t going to write and speak like teenagers! It wouldn’t be a devised piece if that didn’t happen,” she admitted.
The cast of both plays are drawn from members of Moyross Community Drama and from different youth groups in St. Mary’s, who collectively identify as d’Island Girls. For some of those taking part, this is their first foray into acting.
“Some of them will be seeing a play for the first time and they’ll be in it, while some of them are quite seasoned performers. Young people are not phased by performing. A lot of them have done film work already and are used to doing selfies and so on, so are used to performing.”
Despite a time difference of over a century, Monica maintains that the two short plays are at their core thematically linked.
“The funny thing is that the differences are minimal. There are strong themes of friendship and of the relationships women have with each other.”
What the plays do demonstrate is the social history of the area. “There are some lovely scenes in Mike Finn’s piece. There’s on that has a daughter returning home from her first day working in Cleeves in the late 1950s, so it does document some of the social change in that era. There is plenty of social history. I think it’s going to go down extremely well with anybody with any connection to the Island,” Monica said.
She added that it would appeal to any audience with an interest in such a social piece of theatre, and that there are tentative plans to stage the full production in Moyross in the New Year. And beyond that? “We’ll see how it goes here and we’ll think about what different audiences we can bring it to after.”
‘Queens of the Island Field’ runs at Belltable on 29 and 30 November. More information and tickets from limetreetheatre.ie