Sunday, December 10, 2017

Preview - Trump’s Big Bad Belfast Christmas (The Black Box on 20 December)

Having paired up satirical versions of Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill in her series of Michelle & Arlene plays produced by Accidental Theatre, Rosemary Jenkinson’s latest work teams the DUP leader up with US President Donald Trump in a visit to Belfast. The short play – Trump’s Big Bad Belfast Christmas – forms one half of c21 Theatre’s two-part Christmas production in The Black Box on 20 December.
“I’ve been longing to do Trump for ages. From the beginning of the year I’ve been thinking that he’s manna from heaven for a satirist. He makes so many great proclamations and even his style of delivery makes him a great, larger than life character that any writer would love to tackle.”

The premise for Trump’s visit to Northern Ireland is his desire to investigate our famous peace walls, and the former First Minister is on duty to show the Republican president around the city.

Jenkinson agrees that there’s a “bizarre paradox about our walls … our shame is also our pride” and Trump would definitely be impressed with their height, longevity and maybe even the murals. Maybe he’d fancy himself drawn like King Billy?!

Because the President is already quite outrageous in many people’s minds, Jenkinson says that as a writer she can “go much more crazy and push the boundaries further, and people will go with whatever scenario you produce”.
“Arlene Foster is more serious and watches what she says, and although Trump takes himself seriously, he has no filter and is inadvertently hilarious … As long as you have [Trump] with grounded characters [like Arlene Foster] he can soar and you can let him be as wild and out of control as you like.”

It’s Jenkinson’s first chance to write a Christmas show, although she has no plans or inclination to write a children’s pantomime (“which would be too conservative for me”). The playwright has no problem with satire being entertaining. In the case of Trump’s Big Bad Belfast, “it’s a Christmas show so it has to have a lot of jokes and I want the audience to have a great time”.
“But it’s not just a case of ‘let’s have a light laugh here’. Everything has an edge and everything has a political reason for being in the play.”

The show will touch on the right to bear arms in the US and its history of mass murders – “lampooning the American way” – showing up cultural differences through a fictional incident involving the handling of a weapon when Arlene and Trump are out and about in Belfast.

With a total of three rapid response plays produced this year, Jenkinson says that she enjoys the “immediate response rather than waiting to see whether your work will be produced”. But she still values more traditional writing which allows her “to work on an idea and do research so you know you’ve got something more real than this kind of [short turnaround] fantasy”. Her recent play about asylum Lives in Translation (produced by Kabosh as part of Belfast International Arts Festival) will return to NI stages in 2018.

The cast of two are already familiar with the characters they’ll be playing. Miche Doherty (who recently played Trump in Shannon Yee’s rapid response play All The Best Words at Accidental Theatre in November) will be joined by Maria Connolly (who plays Arlene Foster in the Michelle & Arlene series of short plays).

Trump’s Big Bad Belfast Christmas is paired up with another short play, Brendan Quinn’s Game Of Gnomes (a one man festive show about the actor Bernard Sythe who is working as a CastleCourt Elf).

You can catch The Chronicles of Christmas in The Black Box at 1pm and 7.45pm on Wednesday 20 December. Doors open half an hour beforehand.

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