NT Connections: The Ceasefire Babies at the National Theatre
Many whose parents have spoken of their memories of the worst days of the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Ballymurphy massacre in 1971 and the IRA bombings in London in that decade know that it was a time of tremendous struggle, hardship, suffering and terror. As part of the National Theatre Connections Festival, Fiona Doyle’s poignant new play The Ceasefire Babies, performed by young actors from the Yew Tree Youth Theatre, portrays the emotions and turmoil of Northern Irish teenagers who experience only the deeply affecting aftermath of those turbulent times.
On 31st August 1994 the IRA agreed to cease all military action. On this day, peace and change became a possibility for Northern Ireland (although there was a continuation of some terrorist bombings) despite the frustration of many who distrusted or disagreed with their relinquishing of the fight against the British government. Those born around or after this date were called “Peace Babies” or “Ceasefire Babies”. Some of them grew up with a disinterest in Ireland’s violent past and most were more concerned about the country’s future, but others still held on to Republican loyalties.
This work enquires: how do young people immersed in technology and social media cope with the still-simmering tensions of a terrifying war they never knew? Do they participate in or reject the arguments and ideas of those who continue to seek retribution? Can ideology end or evolve? Amid a proliferation of youth Republican movements, and surrounding the event of an annual bonfire, these questions are debated. Siblings Jamie and Mikey are the primary players in the dispute.
With strong, dynamic performances, the piece is carried by the teenage actors’ talent and zeal, excellent direction and concise, provocative writing. With a minimal set, the thought-provoking subject matter’s urgency and poignancy are magnified.
Despite the dour subject matter, the narrative’s message is positive. Centred around a theme important not only for its focus on a particularly painful struggle in the UK’s history, but also symbolic of universal political dilemmas and torments surrounding war, The Ceasefire Babies is a significant, well-constructed short play which asks us to examine our attitudes to ideology and conflict, suggesting that evolution and creating a better future are likely the answer.
Photo: Richard H Smith
The Ceasefire Babies was at the National Theatre on 28th June 2018 as part of the NT Connections Festival, which runs from 26th until 30th June 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here