‘People respond to it from the context in which they find themselves so inevitably the Noah Donohoe case will affect it’
The story of an RUC man and Garda on opposite sides of the border has already toured the UK and Europe and is heading for Prague this autumn.
The two-hander with actors James Doran and Vincent Higgins has previously been dubbed a show about Brexit and in Germany the crowds who flocked to it thought it was about the fall of the Berlin Wall.
But its return to the stage in Belfast next month could put the PSNI response to Noah’s death in the spotlight says actor Vincent.
The 14-year-old Belfast schoolboy was found dead in a storm drain in June 2020 six days after his disappearance.
“I think at the minute its very pertinent with Noah Donohoe constantly in the news and people’s relationship with the PSNI because of that.
“It will be different this time from when we did it at the Edinburgh Festival, there will be different issues that it raises,” says Vincent.
Kabosh Theatre Company director Paula McFetridge says the reaction to the show differs depending on the audience and the venue.
“People respond to it from the context in which they find themselves so inevitably the Noah Donohoe case will affect it,” she says.
The hard-hitting play, written by former IRA hunger striker Laurence McKeown, premiered in Girdwood Barracks in the Belfast Festival in 2016 but since then it’s only been shown in single identity venues in Northern Ireland like the Short Strand Community Centre or the PSNI Social Club.
It grew out of an oral archive of serving and former cops on both sides of the border who worked with writer Laurence and Kabosh on the story of a Garda and RUC man on the Fermanagh Monaghan border who only ever communicate by radio until an explosive incident forces them to meet.
“It’s looking at the differences between the two police forces and the similarities, what it was like to patrol the border at the height of the conflict with the Garda Siochanna with a torch and the RUC with guns,” says the director.
“Every time we do it another community or festival invites us. The director of Prague Festival saw it in Edinburgh in 2019. They kept coming back to us saying you have to come because it will really appeal to our audiences.”
In Ireland the venues have included an island castle, at a Garda memorial, and an open prison but the reactions across the board have been emotional. During one post-show discussion an audience member revealed she was furious at feeling sympathy for an RUC officer.
“When people feel that a myth or a preconception or prejudice or a reality or a memory that they’ve held so strongly for so long is challenged that is so difficult,” says Paula.
“Once you talk to someone about why do you feel angry about feeling empathy or sympathy, what made you feel that, and very quickly the conversation moves on to what do we have to do to move forward as a society.
“How do you process emotions like that, how do you stop allowing it to fester and lead to sectarianism or increased hate, how do you not pass that on to the next generation.
“We can’t underestimate the number of conversations we still need to have regarding what we lived through,” adds the director.
The loneliness of the job is also portrayed with Garda officers on border duty usually recruited from Cork or Kerry so their families couldn’t be used to compromise them, and RUC officers largely loathed among the community they served.
But the theme of borders has given it a universal appeal with performances in Paris, Dresden, Brussels, and in the Czech Republic after its Belfast run.
“It’s the human aspect of it and that’s why it speaks to so many people. We’ve brought work to South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda, and I always thought when we talked to people about our own conflict it would be very inward-looking but the dialogue about conflict is international.
“We are all dealing with the same things. It’s about victims, survivors, pain, loss, bitterness, not passing it on to the next generation, what type of society you want to live in,” says Paula.
The married pair, who met as actors in the Lyric Theatre in 1994, say the show initially appeared to be about Brexit.
“When you think about it now it looks like Kabosh commissioned a play because of borders and policing borders because of Brexit.
“When we started Brexit wasn’t even on the table. That was never what we were trying to address,” she says.
Green and Blue is at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast from September 14 – 18.