The back story of Stephanie Henderson’s play, The Troubles, takes place when the bloodshed began in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s.
Civil strife, bombings and intimidation became part of life, pitting neighbour against neighbour and forcing families to retaliate, seek shelter or flee altogether.
Henderson’s tense family history and their emigration to Canada is the focus of the production the North Delta woman is bringing to the Vancouver Fringe Festival in September.
Feeling family history and her link to old Irish culture slipping away after her grandparents died several years ago, Henderson decided put pen to paper.
“I think Irish culture is really about telling stories and passing things on by word of mouth,” she says. “I wanted to share my family and the life they had lived and why they made the decision to leave.”
Henderson plays five characters, starting with Molly, an incarnation of her late paternal grandmother, who came to Canada in the mid-1970s.
Molly is the play’s tour guide, being both the matriarch of the family and the matriarch of the narrative.
“You really get to see her story,” explains Henderson.
The other characters are Colleen (an incarnation of herself), Albert (a railroad worker), Raymond (her uncle), and Trevor (her dad, complete with his actual school blazer).
Although the cast of the The Troubles is just one, Henderson relies on a crew of three, including director Catherine Ballachey, assistant director Linda Pitt and stage manager Celina Caputi.
“It’s nice to be able to treat this group as an ensemble rather than just a production team,” says Henderson, adding that they help share new ideas about things she may have not considered.
Photo: Stephanie Henderson rehearses with the director Catherine Ballachey (left) and assistant director Celina Pitt.
“It’s really easy to get lost in your own vision. Being that it’s a one-woman show and it has interaction with the audience, it’s nice to have actual people to react so that in the theatre, it’s not a shock to have people talk back to you.”
Ballachey calls the 2012 version of The Troubles “2.0” – a revamped version of its 2011 performances in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo.
In the rewrite, one character has been removed, another one added, the story has been changed around, and the writing has been tightened.
“I really went through and hacked out anything that didn’t need to be there and elaborated on things that needed to be there,” says Henderson.
For 2012, an iconic black balaclava has replaced a steel helmet – as Ballachey explains, it’s to represent, rather than armies fighting armies, neighbours fighting neighbours.
At the Fringe
Resounding Scream Theatre presents The Troubles at The Studio at 1398 Cartwright St., Granville Island. Show dates and times are:
• Sept. 7 at 5 p.m.
• Sept. 9 at 7:50 p.m.
• Sept. 10 at 9:30 p.m.
• Sept. 11 at 5:45 p.m.
• Sept. 14 at 8:55 p.m.
• Sept. 15 at 3 p.m.
For tickets ($10/12), visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com/ticket-info/