MARRI is a WW1 community drama project which encouraged groups to research, script and perform family and community stories that reveal an infinitely more nuanced and inclusive account of the human experience of a region simultaneously ‘at war’ with itself and with an outside force.
MARRI is a project collaboration forged between the ‘Living Legacies 1914-18’ WW1 public engagement centre, the Drama department at Queen’s University Belfast and the Creative Learning Department at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.
The MARRI team worked with six community-based organisations: the Resurgam Trust, Rathcoole Youth Group, Omagh Live and Learn Group, Tonagh Women’s Group, Bobosh and Hydebank Wood College.
The project developed from a pioneering play called ‘The Medal in the Drawer’, written by Dr Brenda Winter-Palmer, which explored the complex interplay of Unionist and Nationalist loyalties embedded in the trenches of the First W orld War and the streets of Belfast.
With this play as inspiration and a starting point, the MARRI community groups, with the help of a drama facilitator, began to explore their own ideas and knowledge of the war as remembered in Northern Ireland.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
Drama-based research methods developed by MARRI proved to be a ‘safe space’ for community groups to explore complex issues of identity and memory. This was true for young and old alike, for men and women.
For example, as a result of MARRI, a video produced above by a local women’s centre reflected confidence gained through the research and writing process, the group producing their own creative response, captured above. There were logistical challenges too, such as working with young offenders who produced excellent pieces of writing via their participation in the project.
Drama-based workshops and activities inspired by The Medal in the Drawer play have the scope to engage a wide range of communities and interest groups. Careful and positive support offered by drama professionals, in this case through the Living Legacies and MARRIs teams, provides a basis for exploring sensitive and complex questions relating to conflict and identity.
The broad range of groups which MARRIs worked with required a dynamic and flexible approach; ultimately what emerged were six distinct, novel responses to the play and its main themes.
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