Portadown Blues

This controversial play takes a number of different narratives about Catholic experience in Northern Ireland and unites them to provide a voice for the Catholic minority. The play first looks at the sectarian mob killing of young Catholic man Robert Hamill. The audience is encouraged to examine the story in two ways-through the changing press releases of the RUC read by police officer Brian, and through the dialogue of nurse Mairead who provides an insight into the character of Robert Hamill as he lies dying in a hospital bed.

The second narrative follows a Scottish lawyer, Phil, who becomes interested in the work of Rosemary Nelson. This gives an opportunity to celebrate the work of this remarkable woman. Phil goes over to Portadown for the marching season, so the audience are able to receive a real insight into the Catholic experience of these marches. The play goes on to describe the murder of Rosemary Nelson through Phil’s own personal narrative.

The third interlinked narrative in this play is about a young Scottish couple Thomas and Kirsty. Thomas has obviously been born into a family of loyalists, much to the consternation of the pregnant Kirsty. Like Phil he goes over to Portadown but his purpose is to join in with the march. However eventually he begins to break into houses and violently smash up the interior. When he tells Kirsty about his exploits she is shocked and horrified. She confides in her Asian friend Shama who has experienced a great deal of prejudice herself. With mentions of Mo Mowlem and Ian Paisley you get a sense of the political web that exists behind these multiple stories.