Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland theatre takes to the stage at New York festival

NI playwrights and directors Image copyright Arts Council NI
Image caption The Northern Ireland playwrights and directors who are taking a bite out of the Big Apple.

Five Northern Ireland playwrights are putting on specially commissioned plays at a prestigious festival in New York.

Each playwright is writing a short play set in the year 2050 and inspired by the landmark Albert Clock in Belfast.

They are being performed at the Origin 1st Irish Festival on Saturday.

Alice Malseed, Fionnuala Kennedy, Gina Donnelly, Emily DeDakis and Sarah Gordon are being joined by Belfast-based theatre director Rhiann Jeffrey, who is directing the American cast.

New York City's Origin Theatre Company, the festival's founders, commissioned the scripts and described the visiting writers as "five of Northern Ireland's most dynamic female playwrights".

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, literature and drama development officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said the body was delighted to be supporting some of the area's freshest theatrical talent.

"In particular, I am thrilled that many of these artists are women," she said.

"They will superbly represent the formidable pool of female talent, voices and imaginations at work in Northern Irish theatre at present."

Carrickfergus-born writer Clare McMahon is also attending the festival with a reading of her play, The Gap Year, directed by Northern Ireland's Benjamin Gould.

It is the first time that her work has been performed outside the island of Ireland.

Origin Theatre Company has premiered a range of European theatre since its inception in 2002, primarily focusing on issues of national identity and cross-cultural relations.

The leading characters

Sarah Gordon

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Sarah Gordon is an artist and writer from Greenisland, County Antrim.

She worked as a lighting technician before her first play, the award-nominated A Sinkhole in Guatemala, premiered at Dublin Fringe in 2016.

She went on to co-write and direct BILLY, nominated for the Spirit of Wit Award in 2018.

Fionnuala Kennedy

Image copyright Arts Council NI

Fionnuala Kennedy is a writer and theatre director from Belfast.

Her writing credits include the play Hostel, based on her own experience of homelessness, and Entitled, which looks at the impact of welfare reform.

Alice Malseed

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Alice Malseed is a writer and theatre-maker and boxer from Belfast.

Alice studied an MA in applied theatre at Goldsmiths, returning to London recently when her play Jade City appeared at The Bunker Theatre.

Her writing credits include Jellyfish and the critically-acclaimed It's Getting Harder and Harder for Me.

She is part of BBC Writersroom Belfast Voices.

Emily DeDakis

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Emily DeDakis grew up in the south-eastern United States and now lives in Belfast, where she studied creative writing at Queen's University.

Her writing has appeared on BBC radio and television, most recently Orchestral Groupies with Shaved Heads starring Tamsin Greig on BBC Radio 3 and Last Night in Belfast on BBC Three.

She teaches playwriting at Ulster University.

Gina Donnelly

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A freelance writer from Belfast, Gina Donnelly studied drama at Queen's University before co-founding Chaos Theory Theatre.

Her most recent writing credits include Tea - a play about post-traumatic stress following an abortion - and Ice Cream, about hidden homelessness in women.

Clare McMahon

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Clare McMahon trained as an actor in London's Royal Central School of Speech & Drama and has worked in theatres across the UK and Ireland.

Her television credits include The Woman in White (BBC) and Agatha - The Truth of Murder (Netflix).

In 2018, she was awarded the Patricia Leggett Scholarship to attend The Lir Academy, Ireland's National Academy of Dramatic Art, and was awarded a distinction in her MFA Playwriting.

Her most recent play, I Am Maura, debuted in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in May 2019.

She is one half of Commedia of Errors Theatre Company and is a short-listed writer for the BBC's Zodiak Kids Award.