By Hazel Doolan
‘I can’t breathe’
‘He’s not moving!’
These words still ring through my ears since I, like many others, discovered the horrific last moments of George Flyod. How could this have happened? Why was this allowed in this day and age? Who are these people in uniform? From the outside looking in, I naively believed the world progressed in equality and acceptance. Seeing the election of Obama at the bright eyed age of seventeen, I had thought that the U.S. had come so far. The events of the last few weeks have proven that premature.
Of course, Ireland also has so much to answer for when it comes to racism and direct provision. Céad Míle Fáilte? 5 out of 6 acts of racism are unreported. This week, a secondary school is undergoing an investigation of racism complaints made by past pupils. Imagine that. There are approximately 6,000 people living in direct provision, 30% are children. They have an allowance of €38.80 a week. They have no right to work, no access to higher education and live up to 2 years in direct provision. You could get a Masters in that length of time.
Ireland is no stranger to oppression and tragedies (not at all similar) throughout history from the troubles to the maltreatment from the Church. My grandfather was forced to flee Omagh Co. Tyrone during the early 1900’s troubles. My grandmother and her siblings were almost taken away as the priest believed her father and uncle couldn’t raise them. It does make me wonder have we moved past it or is it hidden from us now? This made me reflect on our own canon of oppression. Irish theatre and arts have explored historic brutalities, whether rebels or women. Christ Deliver Us! by Thomas Kilroy echoes the power of the Catholic Church over the young, especially young girls. Winnie is stripped of her innocence by Michael’s sexual advances later leading to her tragic death while birthing by the river. This is not ancient history here, but sometimes feels further than we should let it feel. It is saddening to think of those young girls in their last moments who couldn’t ask for help and or were sent away. This would’ve been the world our grandmothers grew up in and I can’t help but worry if our granddaughters will grow up in a similar world if we do nothing to sustain the hard earned rights to agency. The same applies to Steve McQueen’s Hunger (commendable performance by Michael Fassbender). Bobby Sands was treated like a criminal prisoner rather than a political prisoner. This resonates with the ill treatment of U.S. protesters who are being painted as ‘thugs’ to criminalise them and ignore their argument.
My co-founder Rena Bryson explores the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ communities in both Jungle Door and Vlogger. Through Jungle Door, the question of how equal are bi sexual people are to their gay or lesbian counter parts. For example, it is suggested that Michelle is not fully accepted in the LGBTQ+ community as she’s bi sexual and is marrying a straight man. The same is true for Mia from Vlogger who is labelled as a ‘lipstick lesbian’ which can be often ridiculed. She is also often harassed with inappropriate messages about her sexuality and appearance from her YouTube audience again making an objectified mockery of her.
Although Uniform is yet to be performed, I do hope that it sparks a fire in at least one person to use their voice for the greater good. That was the objective of the play, to give a voice to numerous women of various backgrounds. I had an interesting conversation recently where the following question was posed to me: what if my own writing was performed by a woman of a different background? How would that translate and what would that actor bring into the play? I guess time will tell if it ever comes about but I would love to see a woman of colour feature or star in one of my works. In writing Uniform, I was inspired by the Faces of Eve and the Hecate Sisters tropes to branch my own understanding of femininity in the modern world and the masks we must wear. To work with someone of a different background, religion, country or creed may reveal to me many more women that I didn’t know about or couldn’t see before.
Like so many, I’m looking for recommendations on any plays, books, films relative to these times. If anyone knows any I’d love to hear them. Also, we’re always looking for new artists of all backgrounds to work with so please get in touch and apply when we have our next casting call or script call. I also want to pass my sympathies onto anyone affected by these current times. Finally, if you can please donate to these worthy causes.