World Premiere Of The Suitcase At Ulster Belfast International Arts Festival

A co-production between Spring Lane Productions and Chatterbox Productions, in association with the Jews Schmooze programme and the Institute for Conflict Research is set to hit the stage.

[caption id="attachment_58997" align="alignright" width="390"]Don't miss The Suitcase Don’t miss The Suitcase coming to the Ulster Belfast International Arts Festival.[/caption]

Writer: Jane Coyle

Director: Eilise McNicholas Venue: Belfast Synagogue, Somerton Road, Belfast Dates: Monday 12 to Wednesday 14 October 2015 at 7.30pm Tickets: £10 / £8

In 1930’s Vienna, a young girl dreams of becoming a dancer. In 2014 in Belfast, an elderly man revisits his painful past. In the present day, a bereaved family unearths a suppressed, long-hidden history in its Belfast home.

In her new play, The Suitcase, Jane Coyle brings together three interlocking storylines, which span 70 years of history across Europe. Set between the present day and some of the darkest years of the 20th century, four characters from different times, places and generations, navigate a path through issues of cultural identity, persecution, resilience and hope.

The storyline evolves around a modern day Belfast family, in which sometimes difficult relationships surface and are examined. As the past seeps into the present, conversations and recollections are haunted by the spectre of a young Jewish woman, caught up in cataclysmic events beyond her control.

This play signals a new career direction for Coyle, who is an established arts journalist and performing arts critic. Her first play The Lantern Man was recently presented as a rehearsed reading at Féile an Phobail and the Lyric Theatre. The Suitcase is is her second play.

The production will be directed by Eilise McNicholas, artistic director and co-founder of Chatterbox Productions. It will feature live music and will be presented in the atmospheric surroundings of the Belfast Synagogue. This premiere will take place during the year which marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Belsen concentration camps.

As Coyle explains, the story was inspired by a visit last year to the Jewish Museum in Vienna: “The first exhibit in the permanent collection is a small leather suitcase, with the name of a woman from Berlin written on it. The reason it’s in a museum in Vienna is because it was found in a house in the city after the death of an old man, who was a survivor of Terezin concentration camp. He used it to bring home his few remaining belongings. I was struck by the simple poignancy of the explanation and started thinking about what stories may lie inside a case with a similar history turning up in a house in Belfast.

“In the media coverage of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camps, I was very moved by the heartbreaking individual stories which emerged. They were told by ordinary people who had been caught up in unimaginable, inexplicable events.

“All of them had dreams and ambitions, hopes and aspirations, just like anyone else, but they were to amount to nothing. Yet out of the darkness, came little acts of kindness and compassion, inspiring examples of human goodness. I have tried to articulate my personal response to those real-life stories through the characters in the play.”

McNicholas says she is excited at the prospect of delivering this new play for the 2015 Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival, adding: “I am delighted to be directing this unique, heartbreaking play at the Belfast Festival, of which we are proud to be a part this year. At Chatterbox we work closely with writers to create original, thought-provoking and entertaining work and we are excited to be collaborating with Spring Lane on what I think will be a really poignant production in the appropriate surroundings of the Belfast Synagogue.”

There will be three evening performances and three schools matinées, each of which will be followed by an audience discussion facilitated by the Institute for Conflict Research. The ICR is a charity working on conflict transformation. It uses the arts to address social inclusion/social justice issues and works with victims and survivors of conflict, refugees and asylum seekers.

Dr. Katy Radford of the ICR read an early draft of The Suitcase and programmed it as a rehearsed reading during 2015 Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations in Belfast. The ICR has generously supported the development of the script to full production and will play a vital role in the Festival event.

“The post show discussions will provide audiences with a chance to respond both to the artistic interpretation of events relating to loss, commemoration, refugee status all of which have a particular resonance in Northern Ireland today,” said Dr. Radford.

Cast: Rosie Barry, Hannah Coyle, Mary Moulds, Seán O’Hare

Producer: Ciara McCafferty Sound designer: Rachel Cullen Stage manager: Megan Magill Choreographer: Mags Byrne Associate producer: Katy Radford

Cast biogs: ROSIE BARRY (Galina Moriarty) trained at the Lyric Drama Studio and holds a degree in drama from Queen’s University Belfast. She is a talented actor-musician and singer, who has been involved in a wide variety of professional genres, including children’s theatre, musical theatre and comedy. Her most recent television credits include Queen’s Person Guard, The Sparticle Mystery (CBBC), Lost Girl (Partisan Productions), Line of Duty 2, (World Productions/BBC). Film: The Circuit King (short film – Lamb Films). Stage credits: Secret Door (Spanner in the Works). Corporate work includes Nursing Assessment Guide (Queen’s University Belfast). Rosie has also been involved in rehearsed readings and script development work with Chatterbox Productions. She is a classically trained violinist and pianist.

HANNAH COYLE (Galina Stein) trained at the Lyric Drama Studio and the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, graduating in June 2013. She is about to take up a place at the Cours Florent European Drama School in Paris. She has a joint honours degree in French and politics from Queen’s University Belfast. Theatre credits include The Crucible, The Playboy of the Western World (Lyric Theatre, Belfast); Much Ado About Nothing, Two Gents (Ruff Theatre); Operation Blitzed (Big Telly); Wonderwall (Kabosh); Little Sounds of Pain (Sumaire); Home Rule? (Spring Lane); The Lantern Man (staged readings at Féile an Phobail and Lyric Theatre). She was in the cast of Chatterbox’s production of Little Jokes at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe, for which she won an acting commendation. Hannah trained in dance at the Dance Studio Bangor.

MARY MOULDS (Sofie Moriarty) has been a professional actress since 2001. She has appeared extensively in film, television, children’s theatre, comedy and musical theatre and has worked on stage with most of Northern Ireland’s best known companies. She played the role of Bernadette Devlin in Paul Greengrass’s acclaimed film Bloody Sunday. Among her many stage credits are roles in: Marianne Dreams (Replay Productions), The Sign of the Whale (Tinderbox), A Woman Alone, What the Butler Saw (Rawlife), Love in a Mist, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Henry Joy McCracken (Centre Stage); Juno and the Paycock (Lyric Theatre). Her musical credits include: Sleeping Beauty (GBL), Scrooge, Sleeping Beauty (Ulster Theatre Company); Group! The Musical (Lyric Theatre & The Pleasance, Edinburgh Fringe); The Snow Queen (Lyric Theatre); Have a Nice Life (The Pleasance, London). She has just finished a run of Group! The Musical at the MAC, Belfast. Mary is a dance teacher and drama workshop leader. She trained in performing arts at BIFHE (now Belfast Met) and was a member of the Lyric Drama Studio.

SEÁN O’HARE (Leo Edelmann) has been involved in theatre for over 40 years. As a founding member of Southbank Playhouse, Belfast he has appeared in, amongst others, Inherit the Wind, An Ideal Husband, The Cripple of Inishmaan and in summer 2015, Wanted One Body in the Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen. He was part of the cast of the successful Southbank Production of The First and Last Performance of the Titanic Shakespeare Society, which was invited to be part of the soft opening of The MAC. Recent professional work includes : Kennedy Kane McArthur in The Golden Point and Afterwards 2012 by Peter Morgan Barnes; Widget versus The Crown directed by Stephen Beggs. Seán was cast in the role of Leo Edelmann in the first rehearsed reading of The Suitcase during Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations in January 2015 and is looking forward to being part of its Belfast Festival premiere.

* Eilise McNicholas is a highly regarded young director. Her production of Little Jokes by Seamus Collins was long listed for the National Student Drama Festival Edinburgh Award at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe. She won a directing commendation and Hannah Coyle – who is in the cast of The Suitcase – won an acting commendation. Eilise has just completed post-graduate studies in directing from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London and returns to Belfast fresh from a production at the VOLTA International Festival in London. Producer Ciara McCafferty was recently production manager for two productions at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, including Hairy Maclary’s Cat Tales with which she will shortly be touring to Hong Kong. The two graduated in drama studies from Queen’s University Belfast and in 2011 set up Chatterbox Productions, which has taken three successful shows to the Edinburgh Fringe. The company has built a burgeoning reputation for its imaginative, ground-breaking work. “Imaginative staging, ambition … this show really excels.” Culture NI review of Little Jokes.

* Spring Lane Productions was set up by writers and broadcasters Padraig Coyle and Jane Coyle to produce high quality radio programming and documentaries. It has, more recently, extended its activities into history-based drama, theatre and live performance.