Comedy set in shebeen will be the next big hit

All sweet at the Sweety Bottle

By Ciara Quinn

CRAZY ESCAPADES and calamitous situations are what West Belfast audiences can expect when they take their seats at the Roddy McCorley club for a taste of The Sweety Bottle.

What started life as a series of nostalgic short stories in the Andersonstown News caught the eye of Artistic Director of the Brassneck Theatre Company, Tony Devlin. Taking a break from rehearsals, Tony and writer Joe Brennan explained how they were both looking forward to seeing the production have its world premiere as part of Féile an Earraigh.

“It was the Andersonstown News that ran with the Sweety Bottle stories a few years back and I remember thinking there was a play to be staged,” says Tony.

“The paper carried a series of short stories called Life in the Sweety Bottle by Joe Brennan and they were brilliant, I couldn’t wait until the next week to read another one.

“It’s set at the height of the Troubles, upstairs in a popular confectionery shop called The Sweety Bottle –  which operates as an even more popular drinking den.

“This particular shebeen depicted in the play is a place where people come to escape the troubles around them and also to exorcise their own personal demons.

“The year is 1974 and it’s one of the darkest years of the Troubles. You had this subculture of shebeens starting to spring up in the West – you had Dr Hooks, the Nailbomb, the Cracked Cup and the Sweety Bottle where Joe’s father had his shop.”

Joe said that the Sweety Bottle was a place for people to gather in safety during dangerous times.

“There was always a crowd in and the free stew that was served was always a good enticer,” said Joe. “I remember we had the infamous ‘Wallclimber’, basically it was fortified wine, bought by the barrel, sold by the glass. It was 28p a go so you can imagine how it got its name.

“So many colourful characters came and went in the Sweety Bottle, you had journalists calling in, sportsmen, everyone was always keen to sit and have the craic and hear what was going on. It was all these memories that led me to put pen to paper and write the stories for the Andersonstown News,” added Joe.

Tony explained that the production is set over a weekend – “and one of the shebeens has been burnt down with plenty of rumours doing the rounds as to who is behind it”.

“There is a fear in the community and among the regulars that the Sweet Bottle could be next,” he said.

“This is a very exciting step for Brassneck, we have the belief that this can be as successful as A Night With George. We have the cream of West Belfast’s acting talent involved including Marty Maguire, Gerard Jordan and Ciaran Nolan.

“It’s a stellar cast and it’s great to tie in with Féile an Earraigh. Local audiences can rest assured that this is going to be something really special.”

The Sweety Bottle will run from March 13 to March 16 at 8pm. For tickets contact the Roddy’s on 02890 300480 or visit www.feilebelfast.com.  Admission is £8.  Please be advised that this show contains strong language.

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