May 26, 2010
A fictionalised account of an Anti Apartheid strike that occurred in Dunnes on Henry Street between 1984 and 1987 will be staged all this week at the Samuel Beckett Centre in Trinity College, Dublin. Using a cast of twenty to bring to life the story of the ten young women and one young man who walked out on the 19th of July 1984 Strike! follows the strikers through the wind and the rain, the good times and the bad, from ignorance to an absolute determination to get South African goods banned in Ireland. Aged between 18 and 24 they went from innocence to infamy, meeting everyone one from Bishop’s Casey to Tutu, singing on U2s Sun City and addressing the United Nations, loosing houses, friends but never faith along the way.
Its 28 scenes, an hour and a half long with no break, covering the nearly three years of their story. It’s energetic, using lots of 80s and South African music, imagery and slides and lots of movement, getting a little abstract in places
It is a fictionalised account, an interpretation of what happened rather than a direct retelling. “We have created characters that are composites,” says Tracy Ryan, the writer/ director. “I respect the people involved, keep to what’s in the public domain and work with the truths that are already out there. But because its theatre you have to look at how you make it entertaining.”
She met with the strikers, traced out the major events that occur in the story and got little gems from the people she met a long the way to spice up the facts exhumed from secondary sources. She plotted the piece, received feedback from Brendan Archbold, the Union rep in charge of the strike, and continues to inject the script with cast contributions. “I’ve worked with Mike Leigh a couple of times as an actor so I really do value improvisation” she says. ” I wanted the language to be authentic and I have a great group of Dublin actors who are improvising and tweaking as we go along.”
What does Ryan ultimately want to achieve with the piece? “It’s a very vibrant political play that revisits a time very similar but very different from our own. People were constantly marching; constantly out on the street protesting in the 80s, over various different issues. What has changed so much over the past twenty five years?”
She wanted to stage it now as the similarities between our time and that of the strike is uncanny. “There was a recession in the 80s; ICTU have launched a Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and South Africa have the World Cup. So there is a definite resonance between the two times. “
Strike! will run from Tuesday, 25 -29th of May 2010 at 19:30
Samuel Beckett Theatre Dublin, Ireland
Check out my interview with the actual strikers right…about…HERE!