FRESH FROM a critically-acclaimed run in London, Ann Henning Jocelyn’s new play, Only Our Own comes to An Taibhdhearc next week, for two performances only.
In Only Our Own, three generations of an Anglo-Irish family seek to carve a place for themselves in modern Ireland. There is the grandmother, Lady Eliza, still haunted by atrocities witnessed in her childhood during the Irish Civil War, while her young grandson Peregrine is anxious to distance himself from the past and make a success of the present. In between, his parents, Meg and Andrew, face a choice of remaining in their ivory tower or reaching out to build bridges across the religious divide.
Implicit in the plays’ story is the story of Ireland. Reflecting an imposed social system that created many innocent victims, Only Our Own follows one nation’s journey from a highly polarised society to a modern integrated one, ready at last to rise above age-old bitter divisions.
“Only Our Own looks at the remnants of Anglo-Irish culture and the challenges facing the present generation in today’s Ireland” says Ann Henning Jocelyn. “It is an exploration of the dilemma of living with or without a traumatic past, and the inter-generational gap between people emotionally linked but faced with different life options. Ultimately it examines the need to develop and adjust to a changing world”.
Director Cathryn Parker said he was “instantly attracted to the epic story and deeply personal drama” of Only Our Own, having “rivers of Irish blood coursing through my ‘Oh so English’ veins” and being “steeped in the family folklore which charted the emigration of my proud Irish forebears”.
“My grandparents parents and grandparents had fled poverty and famine between 1840 and 1890, settling in Manchester and surrounding mill towns, working in factories and on railways,” he says. “What struck me so forcefully about this Anglo-Irish family was the conspiracy of silence and absence of a handing down of personal history, juxtaposed with the compulsion to maintain heritage, form and tradition.
“Here was a family with an 800-year shared history, who chose to keep secrets and live isolated behind barriers. For me, exploring the choices these people make and the repercussions of those choices was a story worth telling. Ultimately, the story is one of hope and, to paraphrase Meg, about the realisation that if you dare to ignore and come out from behind the barriers, which serve no purpose other than to keep us apart, they cease to exist.”
A native of Sweden, who moved to Ireland in the 1980s after marrying an Irish earl, Ann Henning Jocelyn brings the fresh perspective of an outsider to the familiar theme of religious divisions and prejudice which has been such a feature of Irish history. The play was greeted with glowing reviews during its inaugural run in London, with The Spectator calling it “Immensely powerful… a huge theme tackled with dynamic artistry.”
Only Our Own is at An Taibhdhearc on Thursday April 16 and Friday 17 at 8pm. For more information contact 091 - 562024 or email [email protected].