Seen on July 4, 2016 @ National Arts Festival, Grahamstown
Those You Pass On The Streets has been performed in all kinds of places in Northern Ireland: schools, community halls, public transport, synagogues, … have hosted this play by Kabosh. The company raises their own funds to take it to as many communities as possible to give a voice to those who do not have. As the play is set in a post-conflict context it tries not to retraumatize those that were victimized but allows concerns to be aired. Dealing with contested spaces and sensitive issues Those You Pass on the Streets aims to bring healing through remembering. The many performances at the National Arts Festival were a first outside their own country. After the festival the cast travelled to Rwanda to continue its mission.
The post performance discussion facilitated by Kabosh director Paula McFetridge (also in the role of Elizabeth in the play) and playwright Laurence McKeown opened up a much needed and appreciated converstion about the legacy of conflict, dwelling on Tom Murphy’s quote that it takes seven generations to overcome conflict. The pain that was caused by a long term conflict is not to be underestimated. Many people who might not identify as victims experience the need to talk and can give voice to their own pain. Fear can pass to a new generation because of all the stories told. Working towards healing starts with listening, humanizing. Fear of the other breeds sectarianism. To let somebody into your space and acknowledge the universality of grief and loss. Healing has to do with time and space. How far are you in time from the conflict?
The performance takes the languages of homes and characters are those who you pass in the streets. Some drainage pipes make a construction that serve as different rooms. This underground construction has a universal appeal. Although quite specific in locality and context the language of conflict and grief is international and a story about Northern Ireland becomes a mirror for a story of South Africa. But this political and activist theatre is not limited to the Kabosh cast. We all have the capacity to be activist, it is about the language you use. When people who are impoverished, disemfranchised and neglected there can be hatred for not being heard and seen.
Without choosing sides Those You Pass On The Streets explores difficult questions in a post conflict situation. When is it the right time to move forward, which hindrances are there towards reconcilitation, what allegiances from church, family, country, clan are to be rethought?
The play follows Elizabeth (Paula McFetridge). She is the widow of a murdered Royal Ulster Constabulary policeman. With a complaint about anti-social behaviour of some young people in her backyard she enters a Sinn Office to look for help. One of the social workers happens to live in the same area and promises to check thinks out. Over some visits a friendships develops between Frank (Gerard Jordan) and Elizabeth. This challenges their political views, allegiances, assumptions and beliefs about each other. Conflicting perspectives are further embodied by Ann (Carol Moore), Elizabeth’s sister and Pat (Vincent Higgins), Frank’s senior at work. This getting to know the people that are responsible for the murder of her husband questions which side of the truth you believe and it entangled in a complex reality.
McFetridge mentioned that more people have suicide rates and marital abuse have gone up in the last 18 years of post conflict.
Superbly played, well researched, contextual and universal Those You Pass on The Streets facilitates a conversation about healing and reconciliation.
Ennemies become guests in the house.
Photography: CuePix/Jodi van Vuuren – National Arts Festival 2016