"To Speak Your Truth": Dialogues on Political Theatre and the Troubles
This essay is structured in two sections: At the outset, Bill McDonnell provides an overview of the broader political and cultural context which produced Belfast Community Theatre, and other significant grass-roots Republican community theatres from the 1970s. Together, and especially in the case of Republican theatre groups, the essay argues that they constitute the only radical theatres in post-1945 Britain and Ireland to meet Erwin Piscator’s stringent criteria for a political theatre. This is followed by a series of dialogues on theatre and the war in the north of Ireland, which take up the larger part of the essay. The dialogues took place over the period 1985-2000, and foreground the political and theatre philosophy of one of the pivotal figures in Republican cultural activism in West Belfast during the Troubles, Joe Reid, co-founder with Marie McKnight of Belfast Community Theatre (1984). These conversations are embedded in a personal and political relationship between McDonnell and Reid, mediated by a mutual commitment to political theatre and its role as part of a broader nexus of cultural activism.