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The more things change the more they stay the same

Maria Connolly is performing in the new Martin Lynch play 'We'll Walk Hand in Hand' in the Lyric with Conor Grimes. Maria Connolly is performing in the new Martin Lynch play 'We'll Walk Hand in Hand' in the Lyric with Conor Grimes.
By Ciara Quinn

MARKING the 50th anniversary of the civil rights struggle in the north, Martin Lynch’s latest work asks if we are still striving for those rights in the present day?
We’ll Walk Hand in Hand charts the lives of two working class students from Belfast. They meet at University in 1967 and soon find themselves at the centre of the explosive student reaction to the civil rights movement. Their involvement leads to heated confrontations with their disapproving families and ultimately to conflict with each other. The play then presents the audience with modern day Belfast with Vincent and Lesley’s granddaughter Michaela representing an altogether different kind of civil rights challenge in 2018.
Conor Grimes and Maria Connolly play a variety of characters during the play.
Having made her mark in Martin Lynch’s Dancing Shoes, the story of George Best back in 2010, Maria Connolly – who stormed the stage in the Brenda Murphy penned memoir Two Sore Legs – plays the part of Lesley. In between rehearsals Maria told the Andersonstown News how the production, which is to be staged at the Lyric Theatre from March 22, will explore how far the civil rights movement has come since its inception.
“I seem to be playing a lot of mum characters in this play,” laughed Maria. “In Act One I’m a Catholic mum who wants her son to go to university rather than join the IRA and the stresses of trying to raise and keep a family together during that time.
“In Act Two the play is set in present day to detail how things have changed or maybe haven’t,” she said. “We are delighted because as well as the professional cast, Martin has included a community cast with actors from the refugee community and LGBT. It’s very interesting to see a group of people from Somalia, Algeria, Hungary on stage, in rehearsals, working with us and listening to their stories, it’s very moving and in some cases quite horrific to hear what people have had to escape from or endure in their lives.
“It’s great that Martin has provided this opportunity for the community cast to perform in a space such as The Lyric and we hope the play will lead to a lot of post show discussion.”
West Belfast’s very own Martin Lynch spoke of how the play will strike a chord with audiences.
“We were able to secure funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council at Queen’s University to help us put the play on,” he said. “We’ve been running workshops for nearly a year with a refugee group, LGBT group, a group from the Markets area who are campaigning – still – for more homes to be built on land in that area. This is a real large scale play, we are taking a cast of 17 to The Lyric stage and it will be really visually striking,” he said.
“The play follows the same family – from the 1960’s through to present day – and is basically asking, is this the same set of civil rights we are fighting for? Are there other minority groups in present day still fighting for theirs? Some of the people who came through 1968, fighting for Catholic civil rights, may be bigoted people in terms of their notion of civil rights today. There is that sense of contradiction and we are exploring that,” he said.
“It’s really about what civil rights might mean in 2018 even though 50 years have past.”
We’ll Walk Hand in Hand plays at The Lyric Theatre until Saturday March 31.

For ticket detail telephone 02890 381081.

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