Belfast Company Kabosh Theatre’s Production About Finding Understanding Amid Conflict Comes to Pittsburgh
By SHARON EBERSON
An officer in a green uniform, on one side of a 30-year conflict, and another in blue, on the other side of the border, begin a conversation that leads to the discovery of common ground.
Set during The Troubles in 1994 – the battle between Northern Ireland’s Protestant loyalists to the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland’s Roman Catholic nationalists – the play Green & Blue shows a road to understanding, as two officers open up to each other.
The production by Kabosh Theatre of Belfast, written by Laurence McKeown and directed by Kabosh artistic director Paula McFetridge, received raves during runs in London and Dublin, and now moves to the United States, including a stop Thursday and Friday, November 9-10, at City Theatre.
The play stars Northern Ireland’s James Doran and Vincent Higgins, reprising their acclaimed roles from the original production, which premiered as part of the 2016 Belfast International Arts Festival.
Green & Blue was informed by McKeown’s interviews with real-life officers from both sides of the conflict.
Said The Irish Times, “The play has a deceptively simple structure, and in 70 minutes the audience learns much. The surprise, initially, is that this nuanced and empathetic treatment comes from a former IRA man and hunger striker, Laurence McKeown, whose script skillfully and open-heartedly walks in another’s shoes.”
Via email, we asked five questions of Kabosh artistic director McFetridge as the play comes to Pittsburgh this week.
QUESTION: Do theater-goers need to understand The Troubles to understand the play?
ANSWER: Of course it always helps to have a bit of insider knowledge, but this is ultimately a play about the person behind a uniform, the cost of protecting man-made borders and the human ability to survive in the seemingly most awful of scenarios with wit and humanity. Although this is the first time we have played it to American audiences, we have traveled to Belgium, France, Germany and Czech Republic, and on each occasion audiences have been moved, educated, inspired and entertained. Audiences definitely leave with a better understanding of the legacy of The Troubles.
Q: How do these two people represent both the conflict and the potential for peace?
A: The play is called Green & Blue as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in the Northern Ireland state wore green uniforms, whilst Garda Síochána (Guardians of the Peace) in the south of Ireland (Éire) wore blue. The militarised role they each played in keeping Ireland divided, the political power they each represent and their daily routine, including “stop and search.” represents conflict. The potential for peace results from a slow recognition of their many similarities, how humour gets them through the darkest days, and how they can be more than a uniform. But the play clearly demonstrates how peace is costly and long fought.
Q: The timing of the play, with ongoing wars in Europe and the Middle East, won’t be lost on anyone. How does that feed into the message of the play?
A: When you see the play, and in whatever state of mind you are in, inevitably impacts on your level of engagement. As theatre is a live artform that unravels before your eyes, your emotions are stirred and you make connections with what is happening around you. Our language and knowledge of war is more sophisticated than ever and often our understanding of the global is much deeper when we gain understanding of the parochial. It is an important time to be touring this play. That is not lost on us.
Q: How has the play been received close to home?
A: We have in fact been touring this play on-and-off since our premiere in October 2016. We are performing to audiences now that were previously not ready to listen to stories about borders and policing. It is a very evocative issue. It is highly provocative to see a perceived enemy as human. Closer to home we are always surprised by the highly emotive, visceral reaction to the production; we are honored to share in many post-show discussions and experience the attendee gratitude for sharing the work.
Q: What are the hopes for how Green & Blue will be received by American audiences?
A: That it entertains and informs. That audiences here recognise how quality political theatre can provoke better informed conversations. That they relish experiencing new Irish writing. That American audiences want to see more of Kabosh.
TICKETS AND DETAILS
Kabosh Theatre’s Green & Blue will be presented in City Theatre’s Lillie Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., South Side, at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, November 9 and 10, 2023. Tickets: https://citytheatre.culturaldistrict.org/production/92247/green-and-blue or call 412-431-2489.
Categories: Show Previews