Seven times the theatre, an undeniable legacy and a great adventure- 2013 at The Playhouse in Derry~Londonderry!

Posted on: 31st December 2013

"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. The resulting piece was descrbed by the Derry Journal as "The most significant theatrical event in Derry's history".

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.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."

Click here for a full list of Playhouse UK City of Culture Productions.



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