The Factory Girls in Derry and Buncrana

Frank McGuinness’s first play is set in his home town, in the shirt factory where the women of his family worked. This production, from the award-winning Buncrana Community Theatre Group Greasepaint Productions, brings it all back home, to the Playhouse, Derry this Friday and Saturday and to St. Mary’s Hall, Buncrana from Saturday week.

Frank McGuinness’s first play is set in his home town, in the shirt factory where the women of his family worked. This production, from the award-winning Buncrana Community Theatre Group Greasepaint Productions, brings it all back home, to the Playhouse, Derry this Friday and Saturday and to St. Mary’s Hall, Buncrana from Saturday week.

Four women squabble, laugh and tease each other and their teenage messenger as they examine and finish the cheap shirts. They are under pressure, already on a three-day week in a business which is failing to compete with foreign imports, but crisis looms as their inexperienced male manager warns of redundancies and the long-suffering union representative tells them to be realistic and accept change.

On the occasion of the play’s 30th anniversary, the staging of The Factory Girls couldn’t be more topical, not to mention poignant ,as it comes home to its origins in the North West.

This hugely enjoyable, touching and funny play conveys the humour, anger and sharpness of these characters, all of whom have the gift of the gab in equal measure. However, the quality of the craic is all the more enjoyable for those of us listening in, as we see the girls grasp the courage to speak up for themselves and make a stand. Their dour marriages, tedious, repetitive tasks and low status pale into second place as these women to learn to take strength from each other.

Great performances come from a sharp and incisive, yet vulnerable Kathleen Kelly as veteran worker and leader Ellen; Karen Friel as a bitter, anxious mother; Jane McCarter with Rebecca’s biting wit, intelligence and personality strong enough to make it anywhere, yet supportive of her co-workers; Sue Doherty catching Una’s gossipy religiosity and her daft attempt at practicality as she unloads everything but the proverbial sink for the stay in the office; Nicole Kelly as the innocent Bunty-reading junior; Philip Doherty as the unfortunate manager and Brendan Fletcher as the union rep way out of his depth. But fine as these individual performances are, the beautifully orchestrated ensemble work is the real strength, well-complemented by a simple yet effective set design.

The Factory Girls will be performed in Derry Playhouse on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th March, 2011, moving on to St Mary’s Hall, Buncrana from Saturday 2nd until Thursday 7th April 2011 (except Sunday and Monday). Tickets are on sale at the Derry Playhouse on 04871 268027 or St Mary’s Hall, Buncrana from Wednesday, 30th March on 074 9361572. Ticket are expected to sell out fast and booking is advisable.