Derry actors ‘honoured’ to perform Friel play set in Guildhall

The cast of 'The Freedom of the City.' Conor is third from back, left and Stephen is front, centre.
The cast of 'The Freedom of the City.' Conor is third from back, left and Stephen is front, centre.

Two Derry actors have told how they are ‘honoured’ to be main characters in a performance of a revered Brian Friel play, which is set in the Guildhall.

Stephen Bradley and Conor O’Kane play Michael Hegarty and Skinner, respectively, in the adaptation of the play, which is, for the first time, also being performed in the Guildhall.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ during rehearsals, Stephen said the staging of the play, which is set in 1970s, in the Guildhall is ‘very appropriate.’

“This space tells the story and is very powerful in itself. It makes it seem real, in a way. To be from Derry and to play this role in the Guildhall is just unbelievable.”

Stephen told how the play deals with issues such as civil rights and oppression, issues which are still relevant today.

“It’s about three people facing oppression and is about equal rights and people fighting for that. That’s why it’s so relevant now and why it speaks to everyone, really. It’s not an antique piece, which is the genius of Brian Friel.”

Conor O’Kane said it was not only ‘honouring’ to be in the space where the play was set, but also where Friel’s ‘Translations’ was first performed.

He said: “I live in London and to come back to Derry to do something as artistically fulfilling as to perform a Friel play set at the Guildhall, in the guildhall, is an honour.”

The play’s director, Jonathan Moore, told how it is the first work of Brian Friel’s he has directed and added it was ‘wonderful’ to be Derry.

“I love it. I’ve fallen in love with the city and the people. My folks are Irish and I grew up in this kind of environment. It’s weird, I feel more at home socially here than in London.”

He too described being involved with the play as a ‘real honour.;

“Not only is it an honour to be directing a Friel play, it’s also an honour to be doing it in this amazing city in this amazing space that is so specific to the action.”

‘The Freedom of the City’ is being performed as part of Lughnasa FrielFest. based on the life and works of beloved Irish playwright and dramatist Brian Friel across Derry and Donegal. It includes a performance by Cathy Tyson at this evening at 5.30pm. Italian Australian actress Greta Scacchi will perform in both Downhill Beach, on August 17 at 5pm and and Rathmullan Beach on August 18 at 5.30pm as they celebrate Friel’s passion for all things Homeric. There will also be a performance of The Yalta Game in St. Eugene’s Hall, Moville, More information at http://www.artsoverborders.com/