There is power in simplicity this year, for the Northern Irish theatre company, Terra Nova Productions. March saw the opening of Arrivals 2, a set of five short, minimalist plays, tackling big subjects.
Issues of race and identity are often topics we shy away from in Northern Ireland, in a bid to avoid being labelled racist or a bigot, not Arrivals 2. With five very different plays, each by a Northern Irish writer, Arrivals 2 sets out to open our minds, drawing on characters we can all relate to. It does a great job of tackling prejudices. Not in the racism-is-bad, pointing-a-finger sense. In the best sense.
The writers for the project, Daragh Carville, James Meredith, Deirdre Cartmill, Maggie Cronin and Finn Kennedy have taken from research of real life stories of second generation immigrants, achieved through a series of community engagement and intercultural workshops, and friendships built in the process.
Daragh Carville introduces us to a presence, trying to drive a group of four tenants from varied backgrounds out of their home. “You don’t belong here,” a clear message from the presence. The play leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling, realising the fear felt by those under attack. A positive message also comes out of this play, when the group finally agree to take part in an ancient tradition from the native country of one of the tenants to get rid of the presence, showing that we can all learn from each other, and solve our problems together.
In Secrets, Jim Meredith has us questioning how our own decisions affect those close to us. A pair of half-siblings (Melissa Dean and Robert Bertrand), from a dead father’s affair who have just met, tell their stories in side-by-side monologues. Secrets, hits several nerves, in a more subtle way.
We come to The Ties That Bind by Maggie Cronin which uses humour to touch on subjects anyone raised in Northern Ireland can comprehend. It allows us to laugh at some of the negative stereotypes and prejudices, each one of us has (and we all do). If we can laugh at ourselves, then it really makes us question who we are.
Deirdre Cartmill considered that, not religion, but the belief in a higher power is a common trait in many of us when writing “The Lost Souls.” This play deals briefly with domestic abuse and the appearance of God.
One of the evening’s truly moving moments comes when the character played by Nathanael Campbell in the Hatchet, written by Fionnuala Kennedy says: “It turns out being queer is worse than being black!” and you can’t help laughing—this feels more than a little wrong. But that is the aim of the game!
Arrivals 2 will, I’m sure, trigger fierce discussions among its audience. In all, a diverse set of five plays, which at times give you an icky feeling, because we know the issues which they report exist, but all too often don’t address. This piece of theatre is not about “political correctness”, nor does it preach. It intrigues, excites and entertains.
Artistic Director Andrea Montgomery, has once again produced a piece of theatre that is not only a gripping piece of entertainment, but also a ground-breaking approach to challenge audiences to tackle discrimination when they see it in their communities.
Arrivals 2 will be touring Northern Ireland until the 28th March. To find out more visit Terra Nova Productions.