New play gives history a new life
By Danielle Larkin
Last Thursday the pupils of Scoil Naomh Fiachra in Illistrin, Letterkenny were whisked back to the year 1625. The children were glued to a short drama, "Echoes", organised by a group from the town's An Griann Theatre.
The drama was designed to address issues of racism and sectarianism while bringing history to life.
First impressions were impressive: There was a colourful backdrop, along with a mix of traditional Irish and modern music. The play began with a stereotypical contemporary teenage boy, dressed in a fashionable tracksuit and listening to his iPod. The language used in this scene was modern and easy for the children to relate to, with its references to "lads" and "townies".
From the start the audience was introduced to a very important issue that was dealt with throughout the play, racism. The boy's father talked to him about respecting their foreign neighbour, Abraham. His father then forces him to read a history book as punishment for disrespecting Abraham. The boy complains that he hates history and it's "boring".
But the audience then heard a deep, slow-talking voice speaking about history. The time suddenly changed, and the audience was made aware of this by the change of props and clothing. The boy was confused, and talked to his mother and father, who suddenly had Scottish accents. They explained the events of the Ulster Plantation in simple terms, referring to such things as the big castle on the square and Rathmullan beach, which the boy described as ‘the beach we go to in summer, with the lovely chips'.
They called the people that emigrated with them to Ireland "John and Edward", which the children found hilarious. They explain how they found it hard settling in Letterkenny and how some people made it hard for them, which once again dealt with issues of bullying and racism.
A piece of music was then played with radio clips of historical moments up until the present day, bringing the scene back to contemporary times, and the boy with his father. When his father asked him about the Ulster Plantation, the boy was able to recite the facts, which gave the children in the audience another chance to take in the information. The boy also told his father how he has learned that it is not right to treat someone with disrespect just because of who they are or where they came from.
The play was was followed by a question-and-answer session for the pupils. The three actors from the theatre group were very well informed on the history of Letterkenny and were able to answer any question perfectly.
Teachers from the participating schools also will receive a pack called "Echoes of Time" with information about everything in the play and activities for the students. Evaluation forms were handed out at the end of the play for teachers to fill out.
The play was written by Kieran Kelly, and will be performed in most primary schools in the town. This drama was funded under Peace III, with a main aim of dealing with sectarianism and racism while making the play educational. The play dealt with these issues brilliantly, while teaching the children a lot about the history of their town.
Danielle Larkin is a transition-year student currently on work placement at the Donegal Democrat.