• West Cork Literary Festival 8-15 July 2022

Irish Playwrights Going Transatlantic

Writing.ie | Magazine | The Big Idea

By Jaki McCarrick

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Just as we heard that Seamus Scanlon’s award winning The McGowan Trilogy, produced at the Cell Theater as part of Origin Theatre’s 1st Irish Festival in New York in September 2014, is going to Galway in June 2015, Jaki McCarrick was in touch to say her play Belfast Girls is slated to premiere in the USA on May 16th (an auspicious date for her as it is her deceased mother’s birth-date), at the Den Theatre, Wicker Park, Chicago, where it will run for four weeks.

seamus_scanlon la muse
Seamus Scanlon

Find out more about The McGowan Trilogy in our article from Seamus here. Published by Galway based company Arlen House, The McGowan Trilogy follows the exploits of IRA Assassin Victor McGowan over a 2 year period in 1980’s Ireland which consists of three plays, ‘Dancing At Lunacy’, ‘The Long Wet Grass’ & ‘Boys Swam Before Me’, which will be staged in Galway City together as a 3 act showcase. Wolf Meets World Theatre Company will be bringing it to stage for and you can help fundit here. The play will be directed by Galway Playwright/Director Adrian Lavelle, with John O’Connor as production and stage manager.

Going in the opposite direction from Ireland to the USA, Jacki told us more about about Belfast Girls: “It is to be presented by the all-female theatre company, ‘Artemisia, A Chicago Theater’. And I am going to be in Chicago (thanks to Artemisia and Culture Ireland) for at least some rehearsal and opening night!

I am thrilled that Belfast Girls is to get its American premiere in this particular city. Chicago’s appetite for the new and cutting-edge is legendary; it gave a start to many plays, such as Ibsen’s Ghosts, when other towns were too timid to premiere them. It is also home to the brilliant Steppenwolf Theatre Company and to one of my favorite writers, Tracy Letts (Killer Joe, August: Osage County). Chicago really is a theatre town and I simply cannot wait to go there! Julie Proudfoot, who is Artemisia’s Artistic Director and Founder, said of Belfast Girls ‘this event, this premiere, is so important, not just to Artemisia in advancing its mission, but it’s a great story—one I want Chicago audiences to see and to talk about. Our cast is amazing, and we have more support than we’ve ever had. Belfast Girls is an extraordinary event – one not to be missed.’ So. No pressure then.

The play arrives in the US with a number of accolades. It was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the BBC 2014 Tony Doyle Award, and won the 2012 Galway Stage Write Play Competition. It had its first outing in late 2011 as part of the Without Décor series of plays at the Kings Head Theatre in London and was further developed at the National Theatre where I was ‘on attachment’ with the play’s director, Svetlana Dimcovic, in early 2012.

Jaki McCarrick

Belfast Girls tells the story of five young women who travel to Australia by ship in 1850 to escape the Irish Famine. They are part of a cargo of two hundred women all traveling to Australia under the Orphan Emigration Scheme – established by Earl Grey (he of the tea). Belfast Girls is also part allegory and compares the laissez-faire policy of Famine times to contemporary light-touch banking regulation. Writing about it for a recent symposium about ‘The Famine and Irish Theatre and Fiction’, Dr Jason King of NUI Galway said, ‘in her play Belfast Girls Jaki McCarrick creates striking parallels between Ireland’s current economic crisis and its most devastating catastrophe.’ While Regina Buccola, Associate Professor in the Department of Literature and Languages at Roosevelt University in Chicago, also wrote a remarkable feature about the play, referring to it as ‘a materialist feminist play in the tradition of Caryl Churchill’s Fen’. Click here for a link to Buccola’s article.

I am still talking to various people about Belfast Girls for the screen. These things take ages but I hope something will move on it this year. I and a very talented (female) UK director have great plans for this story. Treatments and pitches have been written! There are not many fictional stories set during the Famine (excluding Channel 4 sitcoms!) that explore how women in particular fared during this period, so the story is still attracting a lot of interest. And while I prepare for the American production of Belfast Girls, which is shortly to be published by Samuel French, I am trying to complete my novel! Black Soap is a three-century saga, set on the Irish border, and is about transformation, cultural assimilation, emigration and the extermination of the Irish wolf. And the Brontes get a look in there, too! Also, I have a reading of a new play, The Man from Clare, on at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham in London on May 8th. To find out more details about this and other readings please follow me on Twitter @jakimccarrick or/and on Facebook. And to know more about Belfast Girls go to my website.

Tickets for Belfast Girls in Chicago are available at 
 or by calling Artemisia’s Box Office at Chicago 832-819-4336.”

(c) Jaki McCarrick


About the author

Jaki McCarrick is an award-winning writer. Her play, Leopoldville, won the 2010 Papatango Prize for New Writing, and her most recent play, Belfast Girls, developed at the National Theatre, London, was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2014 BBC Tony Doyle Award and is to premiere in Chicago in May 2015. Jaki’s short story, The Visit, won the 2010 Wasafiri Short Fiction Prize and appears in the 2012 Anthology of Best British Short Stories (Salt). Her critically acclaimed story collection, The Scattering, was published in 2013 by Seren Books and was shortlisted for the 2014 Edge Hill Prize. Jaki, who was longlisted this year for the inaugural Irish Fiction Laureate, is currently editing her first novel.

Jaki McCarrick is represented by AM Heath

Find out more about Belfast Girls in America here.

  • www.designforwriters.com
  • allianceindependentauthors.org

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books