Men coming to terms with the legacies of their past

Vincent, Paddy and Kevin in 'Release'. (231012JC4)
Vincent, Paddy and Kevin in 'Release'. (231012JC4)

An illuminating new Theatre of Witness Production entitled ‘Release’ opens this Thursday evening at Derry’s Playhouse before embarking on a tour of the North and the border counties. Performed and created by six men who have each played a different role in the North’s troubled past, the production promises to be a captivating experience for those who go along to see it....

Each one shares the true story about their lives during the Troubles and beyond, discovering extraordinary connections of their shared history.

Derry man Vincent Coyle. (231012JC5)

Derry man Vincent Coyle. (231012JC5)

This ground-breaking production brings together a former RUC detective, a former Prison Governor, a former British soldier, an ex-prisoner whose nephew was brutally murdered by a paramilitary group, a former paramilitary and a community activist who survived a car bomb as a child. In the production each shares his own journeys of reconciliation, redemption and healing.

Produced in conjunction with Playhouse and Holywell Trust, ‘Release’ starts its month long tour of Northern Ireland and Border Counties.

Following on from the success of their 2010 production ‘I Once Knew a Girl’, the piece is written and directed by Theatre of Witness founder Teya Sepinuck and provides a glimpse into some of these more private, hidden and untold stories of men.

“Theatre of Witness gives voice to those whose stories have not been heard in society. In this form of theatre, true life stories, performed by the people themselves are shared onstage so that audiences can collectively bear witness to issues of suffering, redemption and social justice,” Playhouse Founder and Director Pauline Ross said.

With original music by internationally acclaimed Brian Irvine and Film by Declan Keeney, this production promises to be an intensely moving and unflinchingly authentic experience.

The Theatre of Witness project is supported by the PEACE III Programme, managed for the Special EU Programmes Body by the Community Relations Council and Pobal Consortium.

But just who are the men bearing their souls in this new Theatre of Witness production?

Each have startlingly different life experiences to share with their audience...

The performers

Vincent Coyle

Vincent grew up in the Bogside in Derry, his father Vinny was an iconic leader of the civil rights movement during the 1960’s and his uncle Joe a founding member of the provisional IRA. He is an ex-prisoner who was brutalized whilst in prison. Since his release he has become a prominent community activist and was a driving force behind the creation of the International day of reconciliation at the United Nations.

More recently, his nephew Kieran Doherty was brutally murdered by a paramilitary group. Vincent has become a strong voice speaking out publicly against the continued cycle of violence, murder and injustice.

Paddy McCooey

Paddy McCooey grew up in the New Lodge area of Belfast where bombings and shootings were a daily occurrence. When he was eight years old, while waiting in a car for his father, he was caught up in a gunfight and car bomb.

Paddy grew up and became involved in community arts, establishing Dock Ward Community Theatre Company, and was a founding member of the Community Arts Forum. For many years he tucked away the impact of this incident until a series of uncanny events occurred and he began to remember and come to terms with his childhood experiences.

William McKee

William McKee, originally from Downpatrick, as a young man joined the Northern Ireland Prison Service, planning to stay for a couple of years until he got a ‘proper job’. He made his way up through the ranks to become a Senior Governor being hailed for his diplomacy and ability to manage difficult situations.

In 1997 after a series of life-changing events and surviving a number of murder attempts his life began to spiral downwards. After a long and difficult journey William rebuilt his life and is now using his knowledge of the legal system working as a community advocate for vulnerable adults in the criminal justice system.

Syd Trotter

Born in Derry, the son of an RUC officer, Syd grew up in Enniskillen. After marrying and starting a family in Belfast he became involved with a paramilitary group and was caught racketeering during a sting operation by investigative journalist Rodger Cooke. Syd served six years in prison, and upon release has worked tirelessly in peace and reconciliation with community development. His experiences have shaped his approach to life and work and he shares that same wisdom and insight in the production ‘Release’.

Kevin Kelly

Kevin was born in Larne, into a Catholic family in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood. He left home at 15 to join the RAF. A dedicated airman, he went onto serve during the Cold War when the world stood 15 minutes from total annihilation. After retiring from the RAF he returned to Northern Ireland in 1979 and moved by events in Northern Ireland he went on to join the RUC becoming a detective. ,

During his long career with the RUC he was involved in 172 murder investigations, including some of the worst atrocities including Ballykelly, Coshquin and Teebane.

When Kevin retired he began to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has spent the last few years coming to terms with his traumatic past and now works in prison fellowship.

Adrian Duplock

Adrian was born in London. He joined the British army at just 16 and was posted to Northern Ireland. He is a lifelong soldier who has had numerous tours in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. His first tour in Northern Ireland was in Ennniskillen where he witnessed first hand the devastation caused by the 1987 bombing. He has stood in the middle of many riots and street battles.

He left the army two years ago and now lives in Northern Ireland working with ex-security service personnel and their families who are living with the emotional aftermath of combat.

‘Release’ premiers at the Playhouse theatre this coming Thursday, October 25, Friday, October 26, and Saturday, October 27, and will return to the Waterside Theatre on Sunday, November 18 following a host of performances around the region. Thursday’s event is already sold out, and so advance booking is vital. Contact The Playhouse on: 71 268027.