Welcome, earthlings, to Jeepers-Creepers-what-does-he-do-in-his-bedroom-all-day-long-dot-com. Everything within Jeepers’s walls, decorated with unfinished song lyrics, is safe, unlike the streets outside, where you can get your head kicked in for looking crossways at someone or not looking at all.
From the safety of his bedroom, Jeepers welcomes you to Ballymun mid-regeneration, where horizons are ever changing, and a fresh start seems always just around the corner.
If Jeepers are trapped inside his bedroom, others are also trapped by invisible walls of regrets, old hurts and unanswered questions. As Sam – the first tenant to move into the old tower blocks – dies, those touched by his life find themselves summed to his bedside. Frank, his successful son who turned his back on him forge a new identity; Katie, the unmarried mother whose life had seemed destined to intertwine with Frank; Anne, her young daughter whom Jeepers adores; Martin, a Jesuit in a torn jumper who has lived through every change in Ballymun.
Awkwardly thrown together, they bid farewell to a drunken father, a good neighbour, a recovered alcoholic and a friend. But they bid farewell also to the tangled history of Ballymun that Sam lived through. To do so, they finally need to address unrequited love and unforgiven wrongs, during one last night when they learn that truth is rarely simple and that a sense of belonging is neither easily gained nor easily shaken off.The final part of Dermot Bolger’s stunning Ballymun Trilogy, The Consequences of Lightning explores a new Ballymun and a new Ireland where old towers are replaced by the bricks and mortar of fresh relationships and by challenges that separate those who have – and those who have not – been able to face up to the consequences of the past and to leave it truly behind.
On November 24th, 2004, when the first part of this Ballymun trilogy, From These Green Heights, was staged, the axis art centre was still tightly hemmed in by Pearse Tower – which was by then deserted and awaiting destruction. It was an appropriate but eerie sensation for the audience to quite literally have to pass within a few feet of this empty tower to reach the theatre and watch the lives that had been lived in that tower being recreated on stage. Similarly today it seems appropriate that another audience has to cross the spacious municipal plaza, which covers the exact spot where Pearse Tower once stood, to witness a play set in a Ballymun of new housing and new developments where the past and its consequences still exist but where the characters in the play need to come to term with all that history so that they can finally let it go and embrace the future.
Although the towers have been torn down in this new play, their shadows are not so easily shifted. Some of the characters who once lived in those towers remain trapped behind invisible walls of regrets, old hurts and unanswered questions. But for me this play is not about the past, it’s about the process of letting the past go, about not diminishing what previously occurred but recognising it and moving on into a different Ballymun, a different Dublin and a different Ireland.
Axis has moved on during the past four years and become a byword by innovative art. The story of Ballymun has moved on too and I hope that in some way the three plays in The Ballymun Trilogy have captured something of the constantly shifting sense of a place being simultaneously torn down and rebuilt.
I am not in a position to know to what extent these plays succeeded in capturing the myriad stories of Ballymun. I just know that rarely has a playwright been so well served by a director I have been by Ray Yeates. I have also been superbly served by the casts that Ray Yeates assembled for these shows, by actors like Brendan Laird, Kelly Hickey, Vincent McCabe, Anne Kent, Ann O’Neill, Julia Kyrnke, Alan King, Melanie Grace, Colin O’Donoghue, Catherine Barry, Karen Brady, Doireann Ni Chorragain, Georgina McKevitt, Michael Judd, Michael Byrne, Stephen Kelly and others. In this play and my previous ones they have allowed the phantoms of my imagination to fully become flesh and blood on the stage.
I hope that in the future when people read or see The Ballymun Trilogy they will catch a glimpse into the end of a vanished world and the start of an emerging new one. Into a community transported out to nowhere and had to fend and fight for itself; a world where some could not cope and sought death in long falls into oblivion and where others found love and partnership and started fresh lives with new hopes and dreams. A sincere thanks to all those behind the scenes, Mark O’Brien, Niamh Ni Chonchubhair, Marella Boschi, Conleth White, Marie Tierney, Paul Hyland, Roisin McGarr who worked on the early shows, and everyone else in Axis and in Ballymun whose work and commitment allowed this trilogy to happen.
The Consequences of Lightning was first produced by Axis at the Axis Art Centre, Ballymun, Dublin, on the 25th of November 2008, directed by Ray Yeates. It will be published by New Island Books in the autumn of 2009 as part of The Ballymun Trilogy. Applications for any performance, whether by amateur or professional companies, must be made before rehearsals begin.Absolutely no performance may be given unless a license has been obtained