On Tuesday I visited Resounding Scream Theatre‘s final pre-Fringe dress rehearsal to watch and review their upcoming Vancouver Fringe offering, The Troubles. Avid followers of mine may recall that The Troubles was part of last summer’s double bill, combining Troika!, the show I co-created, and The Troubles into one night of hot Vancouver theatre. Since its 2011 runs, The Troubles has been revised and reworked to create the one-woman show on offer at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival this year. The Troubles is written and performed by Stephanie Henderson, based on the experiences of her father and his family in Northern Ireland, and directed by Catherine Ballachey.
The issues at the heart of the play surround what was referred to by the British as “the Troubles”, a period of violent religious-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spanned the 1960s through to the 1990s. As one of the characters quips, Northern Ireland is not “all ponies and roses.” The violence which overwhelmed the region is both real and recent. The Troubles is concerned not with specific religious or political issues, or with which side was right or wrong or caused more hurt or had more justification for their part in the violence, but with the everyday people–from mothers to schoolboys to blue collar workers to “footie” fans–forced to try to continue their “normal” lives during a time when violence and conflict has become the new normal. I was particularly struck by Henderson’s depictions of the effect the conflict had on children, whose play fights and mock battles became all too real with bricks and bottles, stones and beatings, forced to take on their parents’ issues.
One of Henderson’s strengths as a performer has always been her ability to interact with her audience while in character. Five different “people” appear onstage through the text and performance of The Troubles, and each character speaks to us (readily or reluctantly, as the case may be) in their own unique way. Henderson has understood and embodied her five characters so thoroughly that regardless of an audience member’s response to her questions and remarks, she will have a quip or a cuss word at the ready–always in character, and always (Northern) Irish.
As an audience member, you will need to work a bit to keep up with Henderson’s North Irish lilt and the speed with which many of her characters speak. Overall though, the frank and good-humoured nature of her portrayals and the weight of her subject matter were enough to pull me in and keep me through the whole of the performance.
The Troubles will run September 7 – 16 at Studio 1398 (Playwright’s Theatre Centre) on Granville Island. For more information and specific show dates, please visit Resounding Scream’s Upcoming Projects web page. Tickets to The Troubles may be purchased online through the website of the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, or with cash at the door.
Disclaimer: Stephanie Henderson and Catherine Ballachey of Resounding Scream Theatre are personal friends of mine, as well as theatrical colleagues. However, I agreed to review The Troubles in my capacity as a blogger first and foremost, with the understanding that this disclaimer would be necessary. I do not feel as though my experiences of the show, reviewed here, were compromised by our personal friendship.