The title of the play ‘Those You Pass On The Street’ says everything about this place; how small it is, how knowing how close it is – on occasions far too close.
Written by Laurence McKeown and performed by the Kabosh Theatre Company, it turns us back into the horrors of the conflict period and then takes us forward into the struggles of peace.
How to answer the past, who you meet in the peace, with whom you talk and with whom you don’t talk, what’s right and what’s wrong. It is about the challenges of change.
In such a small place, the past is always present. It’s that close, nearby – so present, you do indeed pass it and meet it on the street.
This is the message delivered in the words of the writer Laurence McKeown, and spoken on stage by Paula McFetridge, Carol Moore, Vincent Higgins and Ciaran Nolan in north Belfast on Tuesday evening.
It is one of those plays that makes you listen, however difficult that might be.
It has been described as “comfortable – yet uncomfortable”. At no point is it cosy – nor should it be. It can be confrontational, cathartic – perhaps even cleansing.
There is a moment when words are shouted: “Lay it out on the table so we can all see what it is.”
Today – Thursday – one year on from the Fresh Start Agreement – there is still no table at which the past can be addressed.
Instead, there is a statement – another statement – that “finding consensus on a way forward in dealing with Northern Ireland’s past” is a priority, and there is another reference to a “public phase” – to some other consultation.
There is no consensus on the past. The play ‘Those You Pass On The Street’ is not about consensus.
It is about the different stories of the past, the different struggles in the present; the arguments, the disagreements, the challenges of peace after the old certainties of conflict.
The play opened up that discussion with the audience, and this is its worth and value – its ability to do just that.
It was staged at the Girdwood Community Hub, the play, an exhibition and the audience discussion – the three parts of an event arranged in a partnership involving Intercomm, Duncairn Community Partnership, Healing Through Remembering, Belfast City Council and with support from The Executive Office.#
The audience watched, listened and then told their very different stories and in a respectful way – engaging with a panel that included Paula McFetridge, Laurence McKeown and Martin Snodden.
It was a big conversation – without the big show. Again, the play made that possible – created a space for people to talk.
‘Those You Pass On The Street’ closes with a scene in a house, a difficult and uncomfortable and tense conversation.
Someone arrives outside, and one of those in the room offers to leave by the backdoor – not wanting to cause any embarrassment or friction or further hurt within a still grieving family.
In a big closing moment and statement, he is invited to leave by the front door.
Those few words, those few seconds, said something to me – that there are still too many back doors into and out of the past.
In a setting that was both comfortable and uncomfortable, this play helped people to talk.
The past is not about consensus. It is about allowing all the stories to be heard.
Hi Ivan – the event in north Belfast on Tuesday an indication of what can be done now.