By Conor O’Neill
Photography courtesy of Melissa Gordon
The Sanctuary Theatre in east Belfast is an old church converted into a small but effective playhouse. The converted church serves perfectly for The Bright Umbrella Theatre Company’s production of Sam Thompson’s Over The Bridge, which caused quite the controversy when it opened in 1960.
Based in the shipyard of the late 50s early 60s the tale resonates today, even though we’re living in relative peace, but the simmering sectarian tension is familiar to anyone of a certain age.
The general tale is the threat to catholic worker Peter O’Boyle (played by director Trevor Gill), O’Boyle remains defiant but he’s mainly a bit players as the protestant majority fight over O’Boyle’s fate. The trouble is with this tight community living cheek to jowl and many of them related by blood or by marriage, old personal grudges flow through the script.
In the eye of the storm are Rabbie White (Glenn McGivern), Mr Fox the foreman (Louis Roiston), Davy Mitchell (Robert McGregor) and Warren Baxter (Matthew Cassidy) but all 14 cast members are integral to this sharp, funny and imposing piece of theatre. The church is an utterly apt setting for some of the quieter, and most often threatening moments.
The set designed by P.J Davey is simple yet effective, set changes are quite effortless and it’s plain to see both Gill and choreographer Clare Kerr have drilled the actors well. For such a small theatre company the level of professionalism is impressive.
The theatre holds 60 and there was hardly a spare seat at tonight’s show.
Things may have moved on, but Thompson’s pen of the 1950s still makes for an excellent work of powerful and engaging theatre to today’s audiences.
The run continues in Belfast until Saturday, March 12th. To book call the box office on 07885 748727.
Over The Bridge is to tour with visits to Newry, Derry/Londonderry, Dublin and Omagh.
For further details visit wwwbrightumbrella.co.uk