Halfway House is a one act play by Contemporary Christianity, a Belfast-based organisation that, among many other things, seeks to promote shared understanding through the Arts. The author of the play is Philip Orr a historian of the First World War who has delivered community projects on history and identity.
Halfway House, set in 1966, involves two women who meet each other on a snowy winter’s night, stuck in the back room of a pub in the Sperrin Mountains. They discover that they have much in common but then they discover more about each other’s families and that is disturbing for both women.
The subject of remembrance becomes a troubling part of their conversation as family stories around the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Uprising become the focus of conversation Halfway House asks the question - is there anything that could and should have been talked about in our society that would have helped to prevent the conflict that engulfed us all? Halfway House toured numerous venues across every County in Northern Ireland.
The two actors are Antoinette Morelli and Louise Parker. Both of these talented performers have worked in some of Northern Ireland’s premier theatres. A DVD of Halfway House, a script of the Play and a brochure about 1916 were produced. The play went on tour for four weeks hosted by community groups, Church groups, Council Good Relations Departments and as part of community arts festivals and Centenary programmes.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
The play is set in 1966 and the stage set up is minimal. Four chairs, two tables, two stools and the contents of two women's handbags. This was deliberate as the play was designed to be produced at key venues and then offered to local community church and other groups for amateur performances to encourage discussions on the key issues raised by the play.
For those not wishing to take this local initiative a professional DVD of Halfway House is available for use locally - all resources available from Contemporary Christianity by email or web. Because Halfway House is set in 1966 and not 2016 these resources are not time bound and have the potential to encourage discussions on on-going community issues affecting both communities across N Ireland. People with a wide spectrum of political and social views have affirmed the powerful message from Halfway House.
Some came anticipating that it might not adequately represent their political perspectives but after engaging with the play no-one has criticized it for lack of fair representation of the issues of the Somme and the Rising. We haven't yet succeeded in making the resources available to schools and colleges for education in history drama and other studies but because they are set in 1966 they are not time bound and open up important issues for future generations to appreciate. No formal evaluation was undertaken but feedback was sought and received both informally and voluntarily after the performance on both tours.
Stephen Adams, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.contemporarychristianity.net