Committed, Stephen Smith’s bleak tale of a fractured community in 90s Belfast was first performed as part of Liverpool Irish Festival a few years ago in 2014.
Revived in an unexpected corner of the Camp and Furnace complex last week, the play’s 20 year old themes still resonated, and literally had the power to shock.
The tale of a community group desperate to reclaim the area from purpetrators of petty crime against a backdrop of sectarian violence, Committed examines how even the best of intentions can be compromised, as the group set up their own kangaroo court to mete out justice, having long given up on support or protection from the police. As some members of the ‘concerned residents committee’ innocently apply for grants to build a playground to help unify the area and try to create opportunity, others operate in the shadows to beat the local troublemakers at their own deadly game.
It’s a tense and saddening examination of human behaviour in the face of poverty and oppression. Stephen Smith’s script is not without moments of cheeky Irish charm, but its downward spiral hurtles towards seemingly unavoidable tragedy.
The production was the work of Falling Doors Theatre, headed up by director Sarah van Parys, an alumni of the Young Everyman and Playhouse young directors programme.
The Blade Factory space, never before used for a theatre production, was disorienting and helped heighten the sense of unease as the story unfolded; an impressive choice for a powerful fringe performance.
Lines of washing crossed over the heads of the audience and graffitied corrugated board set the scene.
Outstanding among the cast were Geraldine Moloney Judge as matriarchal Briege, a reluctant but coldly determined upholder of justice, and Ben Engelen as Martin, whose jovial and protective sense of community spirit made a hidden dark side all the more menacing. In addition, Jackie Jones continued to prove her versatility in three different roles.
Inspired by the Smith’s real life experiences of The Troubles, Committed tells a bold story; not subtle, but certainly nuanced, confronting the audience with uncomfortable truths and offering real food for thought.