THE BALLYMUN TRILOGY
The text of the three plays now published in one volume
"A rare and special thing to be treasured.Bolger's rich, evocative language swells and surges, carrying the characters with confident ease through their multi-faceted and often arduous journey. It brings to life a pocket of Irish history which will now not be forgotten' Sunday Business Post
A unique attempt by a leading Irish playwright to capture the birth, demolition and regeneration of a satellite town, brilliantly theatrical and shifting seamlessly across time, The Ballymun Trilogy is a superbly realised history of the hidden lives of any city.
Winner of The Irish Times/ESB Prize for Best New Irish Play of 2004, From These Green Heights is an extraordinary journey through the lives of two families, from the 1960s, when Dessie first glimpses the famous Ballymun high-rise tower blocks being built on Dublin's Northside, to 2004 when his daughter leaves the flat in the towers that has been his home ever since.
The Townlands of Brazil explores the Irish and European experience of emigration by contrasting the life of an Irish girl forced to leave Ballymun in 1963 with a Polish girl arriving in Ireland as the towers are being demolished.
The Consequences of Lightning brings together old lovers for a funeral amid the new homes in Ballymun that are replacing the tower blocks. They learn that the truth is rarely simple and that the sense of belonging to a place is neither easily gained nor easily discarded.
The Ballymun Trilogy is published by New Island. To purchase a copy of this book please look under the drama listings on their website www.newisland.ie
For amateur or professional rights to these plays or other inquiries please contact the author via this website.
The Irish Times - Friday, May 28, 2010
Bolger abandons tradition to chronicle tower life in all its darkness and beauty
BOOK OF THE DAY: The Ballymun Trilogy By Dermot Bolger, New Island 300pp; ?16.99
ONE OF the most unusual features of theatre in this country is that when audiences watch Irish plays, they often do so from an outsider's perspective. We recognise that what we're watching is part of our national dramatic tradition - yet the characters on stage will usually be very different from the audience: they often speak differently, occupy a different social class, and live in places that the audience will only barely be familiar with. The classic example of this phenomenon is Sean O'Casey's Dublin Trilogy , which was set in the immediate environment of the Abbey - but which dramatised the lives of people who (in most cases) would never have set foot in that theatre. And something similar might be said of the work of Martin McDonagh, Marina Carr, and many others.
Dermot Bolger's Ballymun Trilogy breaks from that tradition in at least one important way. Originally produced between 2004 and 2008 at the Axis in Ballymun, his trilogy was written for an audience of insiders: the community on stage is also the community watching the plays. Bolger therefore can't romanticise the setting, and he won't exaggerate its negative qualities either. Instead, he aims to do something quite unusual within Irish drama: to bear witness to a community's life over 50 years, as it's been experienced by a variety of ordinary individuals.
Each of the plays can be enjoyed on its own merits but, by publishing them as a trilogy, Bolger allows their shared patterns and preoccupations to emerge. The most prominent of these is his use of familial relationships to explore the development of the entire community. The first play shows how the birth of a child allows a family to recover their sense of hope in terrible circumstances. They'd believed that moving to Ballymun would vastly improve their lives, but were confronted with the problems that afflicted all of their neighbours: lifts and a heating system that never worked properly; mass unemployment and drug abuse; and the indifference of the political system that had created these problems.
Similarly, the final play uses the funeral of an old man as a way of mourning the demolition of the towers themselves. By linking such personal stories with the broader social context, Bolger suggests that we can't move confidently into the future until we come to terms with our origins.
His interest, then, is not in telling one story but in allowing a multiplicity of experiences to be shared. His characters often address the audience directly and the performers frequently remain on stage when they're not in character, acting as an "internal audience" for the action. That dual emphasis - on testimony and the act of listening - places the experience of the individual at the heart of the plays, and ensures that no single version of the truth is allowed to dominate. This seems an important way to write about a community that has often been spoken about, but rarely listened to.
As always, Bolger is interested in broad themes: emigration and the impact of Catholicism on sexual morality feature strongly, for instance. But the most impressive feature of the trilogy is his willingness to blend honesty with optimism. "There's always been two ways to look at Ballymun," says one of his characters: it can be seen as "an unmitigated disaster or the scene of thousands of daily unseen victories". Bolger dedicates equal attention to both aspects of the locale. He shows how many "unmitigated disasters" could have been avoided, and argues that they mustn't be repeated. Yet he also makes visible the many unseen victories that those disasters have overshadowed for far too long.
Patrick Lonergan lectures at NUI Galway and is director of the Synge Irish Drama Summer School