The Play that Jane dreamed up (and Michael wrote)

The Play that Jane dreamed up (and Michael wrote)

When I read about Belfast City Council’s excellent Belfast 2024 project, I knew I wanted our theatre group, Fourth Wall, to be involved if possible. On went the thinking chapeau. You only borrow from the best and as a tribute to one of my favurite TV pop sociology programmes, A House Through Time, with the wonderful David Olusoga presenting, I dreamed up a theatrical version. We are presenting The House that Belfast Built, based on the imagined story of the north Belfast Edwardian villa where we live in an apartment.

Now we need your vote as on Sunday, June 2, the public decides which shows get a performance, and a grant. Turn up from two to five pm at the City Hall and you’ll get an amazing eight votes to use, one I trust for us. Or go online to the Bank of Ideas’ link at to request a link to the relevant form. You get an amazing eight votes – please use them all up otherwise they don’t count!

Our play is of course quite different from the TV version which is all factual and we have gone the imagination route, although based on accurate historical periods. Unquestionably, the big house (now seven apartments with another home made from the converted garage at the back) belonged to a nouveau riche family, with servants. Our paterfamiliar, name Campbell, was most likely a mill manager in Linenopolis. 1905 is when the house was built and he and his young family would probably have moved from a less salubrious area, say the Ormeau Road, to this pastoral spot. Our patch, between Skegoneill and Fortwilliam Park and off the busy Antrim Road would have been green fields at that point, considered a healthy, upwardly mobile location for the upper echelons.

So we’ve gone a little bit Upstairs, Downstairs and Annie, the favoured daughter of the house, with more oomph than her fey brother, becomes pregnant by the good looking gardener. She’s a Campbell, his name is Patrick so you see there are layers of problem here apart from the obvious. The bombshell mesalliance has ripples…

We segue into two world wars, the Troubles (or will do when Michael my other half and superbly creative, has finished writing the new drama), and extend up to the present when we apartment dwellers co exist in Alexandra Gardens like sardines or better, characters in one of Alan Ayclbourn’s splitr stage dramas. In fact, that’s something we’ll be doing at the end.

As north Belfast residents, it’s great to delve into the history of our manor. Our professional actors, the talented Victoria Gleason, Mark Claney and Debbie McCormick, are learning a bit too. Belfast moved from the fastest growing city in Europe in the 1900s to a Troubled place and is now reasserting a newly confident identity, with the PM visiting the Titanic quarter at the start of his general election campaign even though the Conservatives don’t field serous candidates here.

We are researching the language use of different periods of time and hope, in the Edwardian sense, to mount a production of The House that Belfast Built that is bonzer or boncer, a term first used in the 1890s in Australia to describe an excellent racehorse but borrowed from the colony and meaning anything superb.

Over to you all.

Jane Hardy

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