The Playhouse has reflected on another special year that included a pioneering new arts and peacebuilding programme, five major theatre productions tackling child abuse, LGBTQ+ issues and sectarianism, a national public artwork, a hard-hitting educational film about cyberbullying, and an award for disability access.
2018 began with a bang based in the Bogside with the Artillery Street theatre’s new commission, ‘The Bog Couple’ by Liam Campbell. The sold out show, set in the Rossville Flats in the Bogside in 1976, opened up its production process to young people from local communities interested in theatre performance and backstage skills. They worked on all aspects of the show, including set design, stage management, lighting and sound, directing and performing a gender swapped version of the play in Pilot’s Row community centre. The production was such as success it will return to The Millennium Forum in January 2019.
Students visiting us from Artez University of the Arts’ international Master Artist Educator (iMAE) programme then spent a month in The Playhouse throughout Spring, working to develop new methodologies to challenge narratives that serve to promote mistrust and conflict, enable social change.
The Playhouse Street Talk Project’s short film ‘Recruited’ by Colin Bateman was then shortlisted for the Belfast Film Festival’s Short Film Competition. Written by award-winning screenwriter Colin Bateman, directed by Declan Keeney and starring comedian and actor Shane Todd ‘Recruited’ was a fictional hard-hitting live-action drama exploring the continuing issues of paramilitarism in Northern Irish society.
Street Talk also launched ‘This is Us’, an exhibition working with LGBTQ+ youth, using arts to explore identity, community and policing. Launched for LGBTQ+ awareness week, in May the cutting edge exhibition celebrated the ground-breaking work carried out by the young participants of Street Talk and OUT North West.
In the same month ‘The Monk, The Bird, and the Priest’, a “Harrowing, hard-hitting & heart-wrenching” new production exploring life, education, mercy and malice in a Catholic Boys’ College in Ireland in the 1950s opened to a packed theatre.
After many hours of work over several week in April and May The Playhouse joined thousands of women across the UK, arts programme 14-18 NOW and Public arts organisation Artichoke to deliver PROCESSIONS 2018, a huge public artwork celebrating 100 years since the first women could vote in June.
The same month saw the launch of Playhouse patron Roma Downey’s new book ‘Box of Butterflies’. Launched at a joint fundraising event for Foyle Hospice and The Playhouse, the event celebrated the newest work by the Emmy® nominated actress and producer, who has been creating inspirational content for twenty-five years.
HUMAN, The Playhouse’s new devised piece of theatre, produced in partnership with Foyle Pride Festival for the 2018 festival in August, and The Playhouse then worked with the Abbey Theatre’s to present their production of ‘Two Pints’ by Roddy Doyle on location at WG’s Bar in September.
The Playhouse then received the Autism NI Autism Impact Award. The award means the theatre’s staff are Autism Aware, and able to provide support, ensuring individualised customer service and communication for those with Autism. The theatre also provided adjustments to our building to help individuals with Autism use our premises.
For Halloween, The Playhouse worked with partners across Europe to present a Spooktacular live performance installation viewed from the city’s walls. ‘Haunted Windows’ involved eight participants from Gdansk in Poland and 8 participants from Stockholm in Sweden travelling to Derry as part of the STELLA is a EU Erasmus + project, which creates links amongst European partners working to advocate for disabled people’s rights and automony.
The Playhouse production of ‘A Night in November’ was warmly received by audiences the next month. Described as “Remarkable, undeniably poignant… terrific acting… strong message for all!” the hilarious and inspiring look at the identity question in Northern Ireland starred local actor Gerry Doherty.
November also saw the first production by The Playhouse Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy, an ambitious EU PEACE IV funded truth recovery arts initiative. ‘The Crack in Everything’ by Jo Egan related stories of despair, love, anger, bravery and sheer will by six families, who’ve experienced the killing of a child within their family. The important piece of new work was described as “... a compassionate and, at the same time, lacerating play... It is a play of fiercesome protest...”
Two new artist residencies by Conan McIvor and Eileen McClory were then announced by the major creative initiative. ‘TURF’ by Eileen McClory was a live multi-media theatre event exploring our troubled past through a fusion of original poetry and music and performed by a professional and community cast. The debut screening of ‘Forgive me Not’, a new short film by filmmaker Conan McIvor, was then held at The Playhouse on Saturday 15 December.
Also in December The Playhouse Street Talk Project launched a hard-hitting educational film about cyberbullying and online grooming. ‘One New Friend’ explores the hazards of cybercrime and internet safety on the lives and families of two young people, and stars David Rawle, (best known for his role in Irish sitcom ‘Moone Boy’ with Chris O’Dowd), and actor Ellie McKay.
The first ever panto by Playhouse resident company Lilliput Theatre Company led the Christmas activities at the theatre in December. A leading theatre company for adults with learning disabilities, Lilliput’s 22 passionately talented actors put their unique stamp on Cinderella, Peter Pan, Snow White and many more.
The year the ended with a bang at the end of December with a showcase of the work by The Playhouse Little Playhouse programme with early years. The exciting new project for 3-5 year olds, provides a neutral safe space for children from different backgrounds to come together and participate in a positive shared experience that promotes diversity and celebrates difference. The workshops used visual art, dance, and circus skills to develop gross and fine motor skills, communication, self-awareness, and interdependence.
“2018 was another extraordinary year for this theatre” Max Beer, interim CEO of The Playhouse said. “It’s been a privilege to spend a year working with incredible artists and communities. Art is about telling stories. It’s about local stories feeding into international ones when incredible partnerships are formed. With a simple remit to use the arts to provide a platform to explore complex social and political issues, to question and to celebrate, our local talent and creativity becomes part of a wider global arts movement. We look forward to building on this work, never curbing our ambitions or energies; we will continue to grow, develop and deliver.
“We’d like to wish all our patrons, friends and supporters a very happy New Year.”
For more information contact The Playhouse on (028)71268027 or visit www.derryplayhouse.co.uk