East Belfast Granny by Fintan Brady 

East Belfast Granny

Partisan Productions presents East Belfast Granny by Fintan Brady at the Ballymac Friendship Centre from 7th to 10th August as part of the East Side Arts Festival.

You’ve known and loved East Belfast Boy and East Belfast Girl.  Now it’s time to hear from the mother of them all!

East Belfast Granny, a new play by Partisan Productions, comes crashing onto the stage of the Ballymac Friendship Centre on the 7th -10th August as part of East Side Festival. Riding the waves of playwright Fintan Brady’s critically acclaimed shows, East Belfast Boy and East Belfast Girl, this final piece of the trilogy introduces Sarah Irwin, a very ‘East Belfast Granny’.

Whilst Brady’s ‘East Belfast Boy’ has been adopted by Irish Times Theatre Award winner Prime Cut Productions, who will also be showing at East Side Arts Festival and in August at the Edinburgh Fringe; audiences at East Belfast Granny can hear from what Brady describes as ‘the mother of them all’ describing the monologue as a ‘fast-moving, high octane trip through the life and times of a woman holding a fractured family together in a tough place and times’

Partisan specialises in community theatre, with all productions conceived through close working partnership with local groups and individuals. Describing the East Belfast Series of plays as ‘nearly true stories’, the character of ‘our granny’ as described by Brady ‘ is an amalgam of various women, of similar age and background and their stories as collected in association with The Ballymac Friendship Centre in East Belfast’.

Brady describes how ‘there are particular themes that reoccur when listening to women’s accounts of life in the Belfast streets where many of them were born and raised and still call home’. He says, ‘the play touches on social and financial struggles, mental health issues, loneliness and silent battles with substance misuse; not least dependency on prescription drugs which were historically over prescribed to this generation in the trauma rich period of the Troubles, but I didn’t want the story to try to fix things or prescribe an answer’ going on to insist that ‘the play is essentially a one-woman fiesta of a show. It will be unpredictable at times, moving but also laugh out loud funny’.

Victoria Creasy, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Senior Officer with the PHA, said: “The Public Health Agency is pleased to be one of the funders of East Belfast Granny as it highlights some of the often-hidden problems of substance misuse. These are real-life issues which touch many of us, and if you are concerned about your or a family member’s drinking, drug use, or use of prescribed /over the counter medication, you should seek advice from your GP or other healthcare professional.

Hinting at the storylines, Brady describes how Sarah ‘finds herself caring for her twin grandsons, while her daughter Annie gets on with her course at the Tech, her social life and an on-off relationship with the father of her boys. Sarah’s most enduring relationship is the one she has with her prescription pills, and there is an ex-partner sliding about in the periphery of her life, making every effort to spoil Annie ‘cos that’s what absent dads do for their daughters’.

Energetically played by North Belfast born actress, Luna Kalo, the character is what Brady describes as a “distillation of the kind of ‘get on with it’ matriarch trying to hold families together across working class Belfast, not just East Belfast”.

Sarah has a dry wit and takes no prisoners. She is complex and contradictory and it’s her vulnerability and honesty that make her an attractive character. Underneath her tough exterior she’s paddling to stay afloat and who from time to time, can’t identify with that?’

One common problem Brady thinks all citizens in Northern Ireland should be wary of is the ongoing impact of the current raft of austerity measures. Not only because they hit the Arts and threaten the accessibility of free at the point of delivery theatre like East Belfast Granny, which may be the only chance young theatre-curious people get to see performance art, but because of the rhetoric.

‘There’s ever increasing talk of encouraging ‘shirkers’ back into work, ‘disincentivising’ young women from the pregnancy route into social housing, and general policy that treats already marginalised people as being the problem with society. This only serves to devalue and stigmatise a large proportion of the individuals in our society, whether they fit the stereotypes or not. I hope in some small way, this play can show the human costs of that narrative on Sarah, and the many like her.

East Belfast Granny shows at the Ballymac Friendship Centre from 7th -10th August at 8pm. Free admission. Booking advised.

For tickets, please contact Karen 07701008852 or partisanproductions@hotmail.com

With support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The Public Health Agency and the Community Relations Council

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