Last October, Brian Foster launched his new comedy play,
From The Camp to The Creggan, in the Millennium Forum. It quickly became the smash hit play of Derry’s 2013 City of Culture festival, performing to huge audiences and nightly standing ovations from enthralled theatre goers.
Brian said: “And now we’re coming back to do it all over again for five nights this October. Those old enough to remember such legendary Derry institutions as Cavendishes, The Provident Man and Nurse Pitts, together with younger audience members, will revel in the anarchy of the play’s outrageous storyline. I was particularly chuffed that a play set in Derry, written by a Derry writer and featuring an all-Derry lineup of actors, did the business in 2013 over much better funded, imported productions, often starring ‘big’ names.
“But Derry audiences know what they like. And have shown time and time again down the years that they will turn out in their droves to support good local theatre.”
Brian Foster was born in a tenement house with an outside toilet servicing four families in Bridge Street in 1952, moving to Creggan Heights in 1953 when his parents, Susie and Dickie, were allocated a house there.
And Derry’s most popular playwright recalls his Creggan childhood with undisguised pride:
‘Creggan was a wonderful place in which to grow up. People were so glad to have been given a decent house there they could call their own and, despite its lack of amenities, were determined to make Creggan a success story. It was that ‘never say die’ spirit that I wanted to recapture. I managed it with another of my plays, Maire A Woman of Derry, and set myself the challenge of doing it again with a brand new play.’
And Brian succeeded big time. Indeed, such was the play’s massive impact, that the Derry Journal’s news editor, Erin Hutcheon, wrote in her glowing review of it … ‘The funniest thing I’ve ever seen on a Derry Stage … The crowd practically had to scoop themselves off the floor at the end from convulsing with laughter … Quite simply, Brian Foster has created another masterpiece … They’ll be talking about this play for years to come’.
Brian again: ‘The play takes us back fifty years to early 1960s Derry, a very different city to that of today. Back to a time when people from working class areas bought their furniture on HP from Cavendishes, their family’s clothes via a cheque from the Provident Man, when nurse Pitts visited local schools to check children’s heads for ‘wee bogies’, and when the government issued coupons for bottles of orange juice (introduced post war to combat rickets) to be redeemed at clinics throughout the city. And although From the Camp to the Creggan is first and foremost an hilarious comedy, the daily struggles and deprivations portrayed under which Derry families persevered makes for a powerful and gripping storyline. The play documents the journey of one such family, the Kelly’s of Springtown Camp. Their vision of ‘the promised land’ consists of ‘a wee house up in Creggan with an indoors toilet and bit of garden for the wains to play out in’. Audiences laugh and cry at the struggles of Harry Kelly to achieve a bit of dignity for his growing family in the face of the cynical unionist gerrymander operating at that time. And those same audiences split their sides laughing at the crazy antics of a group of eight-year-old Springtown Camp kids (all played by top local adult actors, Gerry Doherty, Carmel Mc Cafferty, Pat Lynch and Bill Waters). Also in the cast are Seamas Heaney, Shaunsy Coyle and Rachel Melaugh. Last year audiences laughed, cried, clapped and cheered throughout, leaving the theatre feeling delighted, exhilarated, perhaps even a little scandalised! And now we’re back in rehearsals to invoke those same audience reactions for five magical nights in October.’