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UK City of Culture 2013


City of Culture 2013


Derry~Londonderry's year as UK City of Culture 2013 and The Playhouse

Showcasing the best of the great talent and our beautiful historic city, the incredible line-up of theatre, art, music and community engagement that 2013 had to offer proved 2013 to be a unique year, one that has set down a great foundation for a lasting legacy for the city and for N.Ireland.


"Yet again this little venue by the walls casts its unquivering gaze on the largest of political and historical subjects. Told without flinching, The Clearing is as good a weapon for political theatre as we've come to expect from Artillery Street... this opus is magnificent in scale and scope. Think Irish history told by the RSC" Derry Journal


The Playhouse brought on board a new producer for 2013. By December 2013 he had produced a whopping 13 plays.

With The Playhouse producing seven times its usual commissioning, producing and touring remit, the theatre was under no illusions in January 2013 of the exciting and terrifying year it had ahead.

New work by several Northern Irish writers, including Gary Mitchell, Seamas Keenan and Ken McCormack were commissioned, while local actors worked with BAFTA award winning directors and internationally acclaimed French and US theatre companies.

A local cast and crew of experienced and emerging artists and graduates were employed for a year to produce a programme so varied it took our stage from 18th Century Derry~Londonderry to Long Kesh Prison in 1974 and back again within a number of weeks.

Important contributions to both the purposeful inquiry and joyful celebration laid out in the 2013 bid document were staged, while local drama students were given access to their rehearsals.

West End stars delivered free pre-audition workshops on accessing Shakespeare, while a BAFTA award winning film maker discussed acting for screen with local actors. 

And Field Day returned. And not just on their own, but with the world premiere of a new play by Hollywood legend Sam Shepard; directed by the esteemed Nancy Meckler and a local cast.The resulting piece was descrbed by the Derry Journal as "The most significant theatrical event in Derry's history".

As one of only a handful of venues commissioning, producing and touring theatre in the island of Ireland, The Playhouse previously produced just one piece a year, but for 2013 produced seven new productions and two tours.

In May, as The Playhouse prepared to open ‘Re-energize' by Gary Mitchell, announcing a two week tour for the show to The Lyric, Belfast later in the year, the theatre was undertaking a simultaneous tour of ‘Over the Wire' by Seamas Keenan to Glasgow. The only piece commissioned for the City of Culture programme announced to tour outside of Northern Ireland, ‘Over the Wire' was lauded as a "gripping, brutal, at times bleakly funny exploration of institutionalism and paranoia" by The Scotsman, who described the piece as "an impressive calling card" from the city.

But UK City of Culture 2013 was never just about the theatre. It was about expanding and building upon The Playhouse's remit to simply "Make arts accessible to all".

2013 was about working to deliver arts, education and community based cross community work to a wide range of participants, customers and service users, to provide a platform for new and emerging arts, actors and theatre students to engage with a working theatre and arts centre.

The important work carried out through The Playhouse's Education and Outreach Programme expanded and developed throughout the year of culture, creativity and community engagement. Hundreds of students gained an accredited qualification through accredited programmes, facilitated throughout the city and across the island of Ireland. The Playhouse Artskills project- an innovative approach to literacy training which uses the arts as an alternative medium to develop literacy skills- expanded its work to harder to reach rural areas in Ballykelly and Dungiven.

The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Kathryn Stone OBE, praised Theatre of Witness performers as "beacons of hope and true peacemakers", while over 700 letters of support were signed over the weekend by audience members moved by the story of three asylum seekers taking part in The Playhouse Theatre of Witness production, ‘Sanctuary'.

The Playhouse International Culture Arts Network (ICAN) Street Talk project was developed in collaboration with the PSNI, where young people from loyalist, nationalist and protestant rural areas, were given creative ways to express their identities, explore sectarianism, anti-social behaviour and hate crime through graffiti, DJing, animation and light box art.

Free workshops, discussions and lectures on sexual health and family planning, self image, the politics of breastfeeding, literature, fashion and the hijabi were all offered at the Women of the World Festival in November, while the Belfast Media Festival travelled for the first time in its history in September, coming to The Playhouse to offer debate around diversity in the creative industries, discussion around current and new broadcast technology and free camera training workshops from the BBC Academy.

This summer the BBC also helped The Playhouse Children and Youth Arts Festival celebrate its 21st Birthday with the BBC Northern Ireland Bus. The BBC Northern Ireland's Knowledge and Learning team treated teens to classes in journalism with the BBC, as well as the wide selection of other workshops during the festival in special effects, stage make up, animation, and social networking. The festival continued its 21 year aim to encourage and nurture children's talent and give them an opportunity to express themselves through the arts in a fun, caring and creative environment.

"2013 took our city on an extraordinary journey, putting us on a world stage, providing a platform for the remarkable homegrown talent we have here. The world got a glimpse of this ambitious, creative community and a space was created for them to develop and expand their repertoire" Niall McCaughan at The Playhouse said.

"As the year draws to a close we have to turn our attention to not just the continuation of this remit, but to extending it. This work will prove where the real legacy of 2013 will always be felt and celebrated."


2013 highlights at The Playhouse...


January 2013

over the wire

OVER THE WIRE by Seamas Keenan

Directed by Kenny Glenaan

It's 1974, rioting prisoners have set fire to Long Kesh jail in Belfast and much of the prison is destroyed.

This new play by multi award winning writer Seamas Keenan, directed by BAFTA award winning Scottish Film & TV Director Kenny Glenaan (Spooks, Wired), follows five prisoners now pitched into a world of violence, paranoia and hunger as they struggle against British soldiers, each other and their own personal demons.

The first of many productions produced by The Playhouse for Derry Londonderry's 2013 UK City of Culture programme, this powerful and captivating play was met with critical acclaim.

"A gritty and stylish piece of theatre from Derry's Playhouse" Sunday Times

"A GRIPPING, brutal, at times bleakly funny exploration of institutionalism and paranoia" THE SCOTSMAN

‘...the production was exceptional... powerful yet provocative... the audience was hooked from the moment they stepped into the unique theatre setting...' **** BELFAST TELEGRAPH"

‘Over The Wire' is perhaps the most captivating theatre commissions Derry has hosted in recent years" Derry Journal

"a play that looks beyond questions of justification and the rights and wrongs of the Northern Irish conflict, to explore instead the loneliness and despair of the individual, caught in a particular moment of history". Irish Theatre Magazine

"Shook the audience off their seats...Such was the calibre of the acting, writing, directing and production....Over The Wire is a must see for anyone interested in modern Irish History" Irish News

"short, sharp and sometimes shocking, with Keenan's script illustrating the pains of confinement with a gimlet-eyed lack of sentimentality devastatingly portrayed by a fine ensemble cast" **** The Herald

"Keenan's fine line in black comedy shines through the grimness, in what is a powerful and gripping production." Scottish televsion (STV.com)

Click to view production shots or promotional video.

To view show programme click here


Following its sell out world premiere at the Playhouse, 'Over the Wire' then toured to the Tron Theatre in Glasgow in May 2013. The only piece commissioned for the City of Culture programme announced to tour outside of Northern Ireland, the production was met with critical acclaim, welcomed as an "impressive calling card" from the city (The Scotsman)


February 2013

on the subject of love

Directed by Catriona McLaughlin

Viewed as the first modern ‘European' and one of the 18th Century's great eccentrics, Bishop of Derry Frederick Augustus Hervey, was a phenomenal Builder, art collector and a notorious womaniser.

Writer and broadcaster Ken McCormack joined forces with esteemed Donegal director Caitríona McLaughlin, best known for her work on the stages of New York and London, for this new commission about 'The Earl Bishop's' life and loves in February 2013.

"Spellbinding... The beguiling tale of the learned lover had each and every member of the Playhouse audience spellbound" **** Belfast Telegraph

Click to view production shots or promotional video.

To view show programme click here


April 2013

tillies tillies

TILLIES by Patsy Durnin
Directed by Nicky Harley

Presented by The Playhouse at The Millennium Forum, 'Tillies' is an affectionate epitaph to the women and men who sewed, sweated, laughed and cried in Derry's shirt factories through the decades, a vivid and emotional portrait of the famous factory and its times.

Opened in 1856, Tillies and Henderson's factory stood for one hundred and forty seven years as a testament to the industrialist William Tillie and to the sewing skills of the factory girls of the city until its eventual demolition in 2003

"Touching... filled with moments of sheer humour" Belfast Telegraph

"an affectionate epitaph... [a] highly personal and authentic account about life in the Tillie and Henderson shirt factory" Culture NI

Click to view production shots or promotional video.

To view show programme click here


May 2013

RE-ENERGIZE by Gary Michell
Directed by Conall Morrison

With Original Music by John and Damian O'Neill of The Undertones

Written by one of Northern Ireland's leading playwrights Gary Mitchell, ‘Re-energize' is set thirty years after ‘Punk-tastic' success of ‘Energy', where a wannabe punk band rehearsed, bickered and tried to get their act together for that all-important first gig.

Now with music composed by John and Damian O'Neill of The Undertones, and under the direction of the highly esteemed Conall Morrison, the band members re-unite to do one last gig to prove to themselves, each other, their annoying teenage children that they could have been somebody...

Re-Energize toured to The Lyric, Belfast in September 2013.

"taut, tense and intelligent... Played and sung live, with the volume cranked up to the max, it sounds, well, magic" Irish Theatre Magazine

"Heartwarming and humorous amidst the serious issues, the packed out audience were rocking along with the band as they practiced for their upcoming gig" **** Belfast Telegraph

"a heartwarming, life affirming comedy... Rock on" Irish News

Click to view production shots or promotional video.

To view show programme click here


June 2013

the cook

THE COOK by Georgia Rhoades
Directed by Dennis Bohr

In 1725, Cecily Jackson was burned in Derry on a charge of petty treason. Professor at Appalachian State University, USA Georgia Rhoades explores her tragic story.

Inspired by Colm Cavanagh's work on the Derry jail, Georgia has researched the context of Cecily's death for over 10 years, reading about Derry life in the early 18th century, Bishop Nicolson and the history of St. Columb's, servants' lives, civil punishment, 18th century recipes, and customs of the privileged classes in Northern Ireland.

While much is unknown, The Cook is an imaginative treatment of the year before the execution and what led Cecily Jackson to her death.

"Well acted, well conceived, with beautiful composition...very very good" BBC Radio Ulster

Click here to view photographs.

To view show programme click here


November 2013

the clearing

THE CLEARING by Helen Edmundson

Produced in partnership with Dear Conjunction Theatre Company, Paris
Directed by Patricia Kessler

‘The Clearing' is set during the years of the Irish transplantation and the era of Cromwell. All Irish and English settlers who had fought against the Commonwealth were to be dispossessed of their land and banished, on pain of execution, to inhospitable and famine-stricken Connaught.

Robert Preston, a young English Protestant has married Maddy O'Hart, a fiery Irish Catholic. They live happily on Robert's family home in Ireland, until Cromwell's laws threaten not only their happiness, but their lives.

The play is an emotional rollercoaster of love, betrayal, power and class.

"Yet again this little venue by the walls casts its unquivering gaze on the largest of political and historical subjects. Told without flinching, The Clearing is as good a weapon for political theatre as we've come to expect from Artillery Street... this opus is magnificent in scale and scope. Think Irish history told by the RSC" Derry Journal (Click here to read full review)

Click here to view photographs.


December 2013


Three Monologues: Twinkletoes, Mustn't Forget High Noon, Christine
by Jennifer Johnston

Direted by Caitriona McLaughlin

Three monologues written by Jennifer Johnston in response to The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
In Mustn't Forget High Noon the best friend of a young Protestant man, Billy, has just been shot by the IRA. In Christine the wife of Billy and she mourns his violent death at the hands of the IRA. In Twinkletoes the wife of a top IRA prisoner and is looked up to by her community.
These monologues have rarely been performed, and this project is an opportunity to showcase the lesser known dramatic work of one of Ireland's greatest living writers.
This production was performed both in the Playhouse itself, and several on location matinee performances, when the audience were taken to three mystery locations.

"an intense, intriguing evening of quiet drama and sombre reflection, of dry humour and old fashioned values: a satisfying opportunity to showcase three exquisitely constructed but lesser known dramatic works by one of Ireland's most accomplished living writers" Irish Theatre Magazine (Click here for full review)

"in Jennifer Johnston's Three Monologues, the Playhouse's final offering of the year, it has kept the best to the last" Culture NI (Click here for full review)

"There is no doubt this was a production that many will talk about, and which will be a highlight for many... I hope that innovative and unique productions like these will continue to come from The Playhouse in 2014 and beyond" Derry Journal (Click here for full review)

Click here to view photographs.



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