As the Troubles escalated in the 1970s, many within the city’s Protestant community left the cityside to start anew elsewhere. The Exodus, a much-anticipated new drama exploring this mass migration, opens next Wednesday, April 13 at the Waterside Theatre.
Written and directed by Jonathan Burgess for Blue Eagle Productions, The Exodus is set in the town in the early 1970’s at a time when many Protestant people were moving away from the cityside as a result of the Troubles.
The play centres around a middle aged man and his daughter who are both struggling to come to terms with the recent death of his wife, while also dealing with the ongoing violence and unrest in their home town.
It stars local actors James Lecky and Sorcha Shanahan as father and daughter alongside a cameo role from Arthur Brown.
Through its script, costumes and set, The Exodus will transport the audience back to the Northern Ireland of the early 1970s and creator Jonathan Burgess is excited to see how theatre goers react to what they see.
“I would urge people to come to see the show which is a drama based on factual experiences and so should not only entertain but also give people something to think about.”
Burgess has undergone three months of research, interviewing Protestant people who had left the area during those years and using these stories to create the play.
Speaking of his own Exodus experiences he adds: “In the latter 60s and early 70s Protestants left this part of Londonderry for many reasons. Some were intimidated and many were frightened with good reason. I was three weeks old when my family left the west bank of the Foyle and so this story is very close to my heart”.
Burgess also believes that the production is dealing with an aspect of Northern Ireland’s heritage that rarely gets an outing on stage or screen and that it is important for a local audience to see this material.
The Protestant Unionist working class have never been given a voice through theatre and this project will change that. The sense of The Exodus of the Protestants from the west bank of the Foyle still lingers within the city today and is arguably standing in the way of us truly moving forward towards a shared future. In order to do this it is important that all cultures and heritages are respected and acknowledged.”
The Exodus will kick off its Spring tour in the Waterside Theatre on Wednesday, April 13, and Thursday, April 14, before moving on to Ballybofey, Strabane, Omagh and Ballymena.
Tickets are priced at £10. For more information and to book your tickets, visit: www.watersidetheatre.com or call the theatre on: 71. 314000.
The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Your Heritage’ programme, Derry City Council and Community Relations Council.