An exciting new piece of street theatre has brought Ebrington Barracks and Parade Ground back to life.
This informative and entertaining celebration of the city’s latest public space, was written by Jonathan Burgess and features six well known local or adopted characters and details their history with our city.
The project is a collaboration between Ilex and Blue Eagle Productions and is a way of bringing the city and its history to life for both tourists and locals alike. Not to mention the fact the project has created six acting jobs in the city.
Mr. Burgess said: “This piece of street theatre seems to be what people are looking for and is a great way to exploit what is a marvellous big space. There is 160 years of history to this space which is all fascinating and I believe the actors bring it to life in an engaging and entertaining way.”
Those detailed include Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, who recalls the heroic feat that she accomplished to bring her to the city in 1932; Samuel Johnston, one of the engineers involved in building the first fixed construction to cross the River Foyle and Jacobite officer Colonel O’Neill who is seeking a new vantage point to fire upon the city during the famous Siege of 1689.
There is also Jean, a serving woman at the Barracks during WWI, Hal, an American GI based at the site during WWII and engineer Jimmy who was also based at Ebrington during WWII.
“I tried to concentrate on normal people rather than huge names,” said Mr. Burgess. “I think it is easier for people to relate to ordinary people rather than a list of names, dates or figures.
The characters will be onsite at the Square and Peace Bridge every Friday and Saturday between 10am and 4.30pm until the end of March. Audiences can meet each of them and hear their personal story of Ebrington and the city. Each performance lasts between five and seven minutes and will give people a real insight into what life was like here in years gone by. It certainly adds some colour to what is an already picture perfect location.
Some performances have been taking place since the start of February and run until the last weekend of March.
Amanda Doherty who has the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Amelia Earhart said she is “loving” the role.
Ms. Doherty recently returned to Derry after living, working and training in London. The Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts graduate said: “I love performing at Ebrington it is such a great large space that you have to throw yourself into it You just can’t be shy, it is very refreshing to perform in a venue, a raw area with so much happening now and so much history in the place.”
As chance would have it Amanda was researching Amelia when offered the part by Blue Eagle, she said: “It was refreshing to see how many visitors to Ebrington already know her story and that it is actually part of the school curriculum. I was very excited to get the role. The most interesting aspect of her story for me wasn’t the flying or the mystery of her disappearance, it was her avid interest in fashion. A woman of that era choosing to dress in male attire is strange, though she chopped her hair short she was very much in control of her appearance and wore make up to cover freckles etc. I found that very interesting.
“There was also her pursuit of equality for women, she was a suffragette and kept her own name after marraige, she was a strong independent, brave, even fearless woman,” added Amanda, and therefore a perfect guide to any part of Derry really.
Speaking about the project Orla Mullan, from Limavady who plays the part of Jean said: “The regeneration of the Ebrington Parade Ground is such an exciting development for the city and it is brilliant to be able to share its history with people through the Ebrington Alive project. Jean worked as a server at the barracks during the First World War. My performance includes stories of the sacrifice people made at this time as well as some tales of the famous poet Francis Ledwidge who was based in Ebrington at the time.”
The performers are on site at Ebrington each Friday and Saturday until the end of march between 10-4.30pm.