A member of the Baltic team, James Jackson, headed down to the Blade Factory last month to check out the play ‘Committed’ by Stephen Smith. The play was presented by Falling Doors Theatre, which was established in the Baltic Triangle in 2013. The theatre group consists of a collection of actors, designers, directors, writers, techies and theatre enthusiasts! It was set up following a play at the Lantern Theatre, when a vital piece of the set fell over in the last three minutes of the performance, hence the name Falling Doors.
Many reams of newspaper have been printed about the troubles in Northern Ireland- news, history, opinion. But for those of us in Great Britain, it can be easy to forget the human stories that lie behind this grand narrative of Green vs Orange. Committed is one of these stories, and yet it also tells us of one of the struggles that imbues all human existence: the thirst for power.
The play is set in a poverty-stricken Catholic ghetto in West Belfast during the mid 90s that has been abandoned by the Protestant-dominated police to rot, and portrays the efforts of a group of “concerned residents” to reclaim their neighbourhood from “the hoods”.
Their efforts, clandestinely supported by the unnamed “movement,” are initially successful in publicly punishing a local petty criminal, and this gives their self—appointed committee a modicum of respect and power within the community, but things start to go wrong as the problems they face become more complex… and dangerous.
There are some interesting conversations about the nature of justice among the committee members, who have power almost accidentally thrust onto them. Does justice have to be seen to be done, done to be seen, or is justice just impossible?
Lacking a central character, the focus of the play moves from naïve and enthusiastic Briege to bitter Republican hardman Dan, trying to create a new life for himself away from violence but getting reluctantly dragged into vigilantism. The second act goes to the power struggles behind the scenes between the idealistic but cold Ailish, and the burly, Stalinesque Martin, whose quoting of management jargon from his jobcentre course provides some much-needed comic relief.
The set, in the Blade Factory above the Camp & Furnace, did a good job of recreating trouble-striken West Belfast, and subtly improved as the good work of the concerned citizens continued. The director Sarah van Parys, formerly a Young Everyman Director, apologised for some minor lighting problems, but these went unnoticed by the crowd who were focused on the tale of vigilantism gone wrong and the dark and dramatic twists-and-turns of the plot. The only issue which broke the spell was a case of wandering accents among some of the actors, and at times you couldn’t tell if they were from Belfast, Blackpool or Birkenhead.