What did the RUG?
When Robert Hamill was beaten up in Northern Ireland, four policemen sat twenty yards away. Theatre Workshop gets the PORTADOWN BLUES.
Words: Kelly Apter
Sectarianism is a fertile seed. Planted deeply enough during childhood. it can germinate in much the same way as racism and homophobia. until eventually you have an adult who will happily kick a man to death simply because they look or think a different way. Such an event happened in l’ortadown. Northern Ireland. three years ago. Robert Hamill. a 25—year-old Catholic was walking home with his family after a night out. A short distance from safe (‘atholic territory. he was ambushed by 30 Loyalists who
kicked and beat him until. bored by his lack of
resistance. they gave tip. Twelve days later he died in hospital from massive head injuries.
This tragic tale of senseless violence is shocking enough. But the fact that a car containing four RlF(‘ policemen sat just twenty yards away throughout the attack. shifts the murder into a whole other arena. An Rl7(‘ press release from the night of the assault called the incident ‘a clash between rival factions‘ and claimed that police officers were ‘unable to contain the situation‘. Nobody was arrested at the scene. and the five men eventually taken into custody were either released or acquitted through lack of evidence.
Two years later. human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson suffered fatal injuries when a huge explosive under her car blew tip just yards from her eight-year- old daughter‘s school. That Nelson had been working on the Robert llamill case is. in the eyes of her
'When Donald Findlay did his little sectarian number everyone said "get him out of Rangers", well what about getting him out of the legal
RUCing what he's seeing?
campaigners. no coincidence. Neither is the fact that months of RUC harassment preceded her murder. As with Hamill. no one has ever been convicted of the attack.
The handling of these two murders. and sectarianism in general. forms the basis for Theatre Workshop's new devised play. Purim/mm Blues.
liusing the Hamill/Nelson stories with tales of
sectarianism in Scotland. the play aims to explore what artistic director Robert Rae considers an oft neglected subject. ‘liveryone wants Scotland to be an inclusive place and a tolerant society.’ he says. ‘But a veil comes down when you try to talk about sectarianism as if it's not a problem in this country. It worries me that when Donald Findlay did his little
sectarian number everyone said "get him out of
Rangers". well what about getting him out of the legal system‘."
If the subject of sectarianism is still taboo. then Theatre Workshop is about to tackle a second anathema: that of disability. The theatre has always made disabled actors welcome. but has recently become the first producing venue to integrate actors as a matter of policy.
‘We talked to directors in Scotland and asked why they weren't employing disabled actors. and one reason was there weren’t enough and the other was they didn‘t have enough experience.. explains Rae. ‘Then we went to the drama schools and asked why they weren‘t training disabled actors and they said “the directors aren't using them". So that‘s the kind of loop we‘re trying to help break.
‘Theatre is one of the last uncensored spaces and actually having disabled actors on stage starts to make people more comfortable with the notion of disability. ln Purim/writ Blues there are disabled actors in ordinary relationships; nobody ever portrays that. You don‘t see disabled actors in soap operas: (‘m‘rmulirm Street had one character who was in a wheelchair and miraculously he recovered; now what does that say'.’.'
Portadown Blues is at Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh, Thu 5-Sat 21 Oct.
Stage whispers Re: Treading the boards
DO NOT LISTEN to those who tell you that the theatre is too expensive these days. Among many new deals to be launched over the last season or so, the Royal Lyceum’s is notably wallet friendly. Students are offered the option of half-priced seats on any night they choose to attend, while there's a general cheap night on the first Monday night after each production goes up. Your rest-of-the-week work depression might well be lifted by the thought that on this night you can pay what you like for attendance. There's a minimum fee of £1, but if you won't pay that, your bottom must squeak when you walk.
AFTER A LONG period of depression, things are starting to look up for new writing in Scotland. One of the opportunities offered if you fancy pounding your keyboard in anger, bliss, or eXistential angst is the new writing programme set up by the Edinburgh International Festival. One of Scotland’s leading new dramatists, Zinnie Harris, Will be leading workshops to develop theatre writing over a succeSSion of weekends, starting Saturday 21 October. If you feel you've got something to say, let Zinnie help you say it. Places are £40 per weekend, With reductions of £20 for students, unemployed and OAPs.
WE ARE ASSURED that all is well at Theatre Workshop, despite the resignation of two actors from the production of Portadown Blues, which has occurred since the production of our feature on it (left). John Paul Hurley and Cathy Kiera Clark left the production last week, and were replaced by Muz Murray and Gemma Burns. Currently in dispute over the actors' contracts, Theatre Workshop asserts that the new members of the cast have settled in to the devised show well, and that the programme will go ahead as scheduled.
Quality for a quid at The Lyceum
S--l9 Oct 2000 THE UST 61