In Conversation with – JUSTUs Theatre Company
Discussion and Q & A with Founding Members of the JUSTus Women’s Theatre Group, chaired by Orliath Mhic Leanáin.
An important part of Féile, from the first festival in 1988, was its capacity to bring theatre to West Belfast and bring West Belfast to the theatre. Féile has produced a great deal more since in terms of diverse, international and contemporary theatrical fare. DubbelJoint theatre company, founded in 1991 by English Theatre Practitioner Pam Brighton, Marie Jones and Mark Lambert. But the theatre group’s role extended well beyond the conventional ambit of commercial theatre; it acted also as a spur to grassroots involvement. Brighton and her team, for instance, conducted workshops aimed at helping budding theatre directors and producers during Féile events from the mid-1990s. Brighton’s guidance also helped Chrissie Mhic Siacáis and a group of local non-theatre professional women establish JustUs community theatre in 1995. Mhic Siacáis, Féile’s then community development worker, had brought the JustUs group together at first to discuss issues pertaining to local women’s lives. Their co-production of the following year of the widely acclaimed, Just a Prisoner’s Wife, premiered in March as part of a Féile an Phobail International Women’s Day initiative. The group would go on to produce iconic Féile productions, including Binlids (written by Jake Mac Siacais, Danny Morrison, Brenda Murphy and Christine Poland, 1997) which travelled to New York in 1998. They also produced Forced Upon Us (written by Brenda Murphy and Christine Poland, 1999), and Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives (2002) and both theatre groups were responsible for guiding those previously untrained in theatre, such as Brenda Murphy and Christine Poland, into later careers in the profession.