Stewart Parker’s masterpiece, Pentecost, is being resurrected by the Lyric Theatre this September on the 40th anniversary of the momentous Ulster Workers Council Strike which toppled the power-sharing Stormont Executive.
This pivotal point in the Northern Ireland Troubles in 1974 forms the tense backdrop to Parker’s acclaimed play and what was to be his last script before his premature death in 1988.
Widely regarded as the greatest Belfast playwright of his generation, Parker tells the story of a group of people caught up in the tension and strife of the Troubles while also examining their own personal troubles. Far from being a dry political polemic, Pentecost is a richly layered play which glows with warmth and wit through its cast of fascinating characters.
Marian, played by Judith Roddy (The Fall) is an antiques dealer and Catholic who has sold her business and moves into a parlour-house after the elderly Protestant owner, Lily Matthews, dies. Her hopes for a safe haven are shattered when she finds herself stuck with estranged husband Lenny, played by Paul Mallon (Macbeth, Shameless). They are swiftly joined by Lenny’s muesli-chomping friend Peter, played by Will Irvine (Playboy of the Western World) and her best friend Ruth played by Roisin Gallagher (Demented, Weddins, Weeins & Wakes) who is fleeing from an abusive husband.
They work out their own personal crises, their relationships to each other, the world outside and to the past, while trying to envisage a future beyond bombs and reprisals. Only Marian is aware of the ghost of Lily Matthews played by Carol Moore (Can’t Forget About You, Macbeth) with whom she spars throughout the story.
Pentecost is directed by Jimmy Fay, the Lyric’s newly appointed Executive Producer. He said:
“Stewart Parker is one of the most extraordinary artists to have emerged from Belfast. His rich legacy is, alas, all too brief. His plays evoke a rich tapestry of life in Belfast throughout her history. He said himself that “plays and ghosts have a lot in common”. I think I know what he meant that, obviously, the present is informed by the past and just as Catholic squatter Marian is haunted by the ghost of Protestant house proud Lily, so our present is held to account by our past. Pentecost is a ghost play as finely tuned to the present realities and frailties of the human soul as any true classic play can claim to be. It is an honour to be staging this wonderful, complex, comic, richly dramatic work on the Lyric stage this autumn.”
Rehearsals began this week with the full cast: Roisin Gallagher as Ruth, Will Irvine as Peter, Paul Mallon as Lenny, Carol Moore as Lily and Judith Roddy as Marian.
Pentecost runs on the Danske Bank Stage at the Lyric Theatre from 20 September to 18 October. (Previews on Sat 20th Sept, Sun 21st Sept, Tues 23rd Sept & Wed 24 Sept). Tickets range from £10 - £24.50.