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The Senator George J.Mitchell Institute
for Global Peace, Security and Justice

Storytelling in Northern Ireland Theatres

Dr Stefanie Lehner explores the role of storytelling and performance practices (including sounds and music) as narrative responses to conflict in staged productions in Northern Ireland in the wake of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (1998). The aim is to assess the ways in which performing narratives can create contact zones and foster reconciliation among audiences.

The research will compare and evaluate archived and current, key performances of four theatre companies, which are notable for creating a new ‘transformative aesthetics’ to counteract one-sided narratives of the Northern Irish conflict:

The Belfast-based Tinderbox Theatre Company, founded in 1988, is one of Northern Ireland’s leading independent theatre companies and dedicated to creating ‘challenging theatre not ordinarily seen in Belfast’. Its productions often deal with difficult and demanding themes of current political and social relevance, and are often accompanied by post-show discussions with the audience.

Founded in 1994, the Belfast-based Kabosh Theatre Company is committed to challenging the notion of what theatre is and where it takes place. The company aims to reinvent the ways in which stories are told, commissioning new writing and devising work for site-specific environments and installation. Its performances are underpinned by a belief in the transformative politics and potential of theatre.

Theatreofpluck is Northern Ireland's first publicly funded gay theatre company since 2008, and is specifically concerned with exploring how issues of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender identities impact on and intersect with wider identitarian issues in Northern Ireland.

The Theatre of Witness programme at The Playhouse Theatre and Arts Centre in Derry (2009-2014), developed by Teya Sepunick,is a specific model of performance that uses oral testimonies to give voice to those whose stories have not been heard in society. By sharing these stories on stage, the audiences are invited to collectively bear witness to issues of suffering, forgiveness and redemption. Theatre of Witness productions are performed in spoken word, music, movement and cinematic imagery.




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