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Tragedies of South Armagh and border counties shared in new play

February 4, 2019

People with lived experience of the tragedies of South Armagh and Border counties in the darkest days of The Troubles have shared their stories for a new truth recovery arts initiative.

 BAFTA winning film and theatre maker Robert Rae has undertaken a six month residency in South Armagh and border counties as part of the ambitious EU PEACE IV funded arts programme, The Playhouse Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy. Robert’s residency has seen him working in and around the South Armagh region, collaborating with those worst affected by the conflict, including the Dublin bombings, to develop a contemporary piece of theatre, ‘Blood Red Lines’, which will tour Newry, Dundalk and Belfast in February/ March.

 In the play, survivors and former combatants wrestle with the complexity of how and what to tell the next generation, their individual rights set against the refusal of the state to share the truth, growing anxiety about the effect Brexit will have on peace… and the impact upon their own lives of the events they endured. 

The play is part of a wider ‘Border Stories’ programme, delivered by the Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy in Spring 2019, to foreground stories related to The Troubles in the South Armagh and Border Counties region. 

Victims’ participation in this unique project has been crucial, with many finding catharsis and healing in the act of bearing witness to untold stories. The aim of the project is to use these stories to deliver something completely unique, including pieces of theatre that will radically change the way we think as a society.

 Local projects include award-winning documentary filmmaker Declan Keeney using ground-breaking VR technology to create an immersive documentary filmed in Virtual Reality in March 2019; composer, musician and vocalist Emer Kenny composing music inspired by interviews and experiences related to The Troubles, to be released as an album in April 2019; and playwright, scriptwriter and filmmaker Laurence McKeown creating a multi-media, live event with focus upon the land and the landscape, to be staged in April 2019.

 The Playhouse will work in partnership with Holywell Trust, Thomas D’Arcy McGee Foundation and Queen’s University, Belfast to deliver the two and a half year project, which will work with representatives from interface and highly segregated areas, historical atrocities, victims and survivors and public sector.

 Rae said: “It’s a great privilege as well as a daunting responsibility to be invited to come and work with people here in Newry and Dundalk, surrounded by the beautiful countryside that holds the memory of so many terrible events. 

“By listening and responding to what people choose to tell me, together we will make a contribution to the courageous efforts of those who already tell their stories in the hope that we will never again return to the tragedy of armed conflict. 

Robert Rae, Director of Blood Red Lines. Photograph: Columba O’Hare/ Newry.ie

“People have been generous and welcoming – I am struck by their quiet dignity and steely determination to find the truth. The legendary Tommy Sands said to me recently “I’ve never seen a green or an orange tear – only tears”. 

“So whatever we create it will be as honest as we can make it – from the stories shared so far and the integrity of the people who have already agreed to take part, it will undoubtedly be a night to remember.”

 ‘Blood Red Lines will come to Newry Town Hall on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 February, 7pm  (Box Office 02830 313180), and An Táin Arts Centre, Dundalk on Saturday 9 March, 8pm (Box Office 042 9332332 or www.antain.ie).

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