Controversial play receives positive reaction in Coalisland

A touring play that prompted audience walkouts due to its scenes of male rape and bestiality has received a more favourable reaction in Coalisland.

Audience members in Omagh left in their droves during a performance of Both Sides of the Story, a double bill of one-act plays by Belfast’s Ransom Theatre Company.

But the Coalisland audience attending the controversial production as it moved to CRAIC Theatre on Friday, November 4 seemed to have a more positive reaction.

Both Sides actress Charlotte McCurry tweeted after the Coalisland performance: “No walkouts tonight in Coalisland. Seemed like a pretty good response from the audience. Hoping for more of the same in Lisburn tomorrow.”

The actress also retweeted positive comments from audience members attending the Coalisland leg of the play’s Northern Ireland tour.

Nicholas McElhatton tweeted: “That awkward moment when you go see a play about male rape and everyone in the audience are prudish OAPs clutching rosary beads.”

He added: “Watching that play has got my artistic juices flowing.”

Both Sides of the Story pairs one-act plays Static, by Robert Anthony Welch, and Yes so I said Yes, by David Ireland.

The production, funded by Northern Ireland’s Arts Council and Belfast City Council, features scenes showing a man raping a dog, as well as male rape.

More than half of the audience walked out before the interval when the show appeared at Strule Arts Centre in Omagh on Wednesday, November 2.

It is understood elderly community groups and youth organisations were invited to see the play.

A verbal complaint was also lodged when the production moved to Armagh’s Market Place Theatre the following evening.

Audience member Iris Moffitt-Scott, chairperson of an Omagh group for the elderly, said on BBC’s Talkback programme: “I was just totally disgusted.

“The play was explicit, graphic, just horrendous, and our group walked out with many other people.”

“We’re just sorry now we didn’t leave at the very beginning.”

She added: “I just think it insults the intelligence of the Omagh people to be quite honest. I mean, dog rape. How much lower are we going to stoop?”

Strule Arts Centre said they were not given sufficient advice and notice as to the explicit nature of the play’s content.

Eibhlin de Barra, of Random Theatre Company, said they took every effort to warn audiences of the adult content, giving prior notice on their fliers and to venue staff.

She said: “We believe that we take every effort to warn patrons of the subject matter.

“At Ransom we have always supported artists who produce ground-breaking new theatre and new writing. The results of this are often hard-hitting and are not certainly everyone’s tastes.

“We hope that the plays challenge people’s perceptions and provoke thought and debate. If some patrons have taken offence at the subject matter, that is obviously regrettable.”

>BBC Radio Ulster Talkback podcast discussing the play (available until early December)

>Review of the production by Culture Northern Ireland

What did you think of the production? Would you ever walk out of a play you didn’t like? Share your thoughts by commenting below


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