Tinderbox Unearths Famla Secrets

The murky past of one rural household rises to the surface in John McCann's 'menacing' new comedy, touring in the weeks ahead

Tinderbox Theatre Company unearths long buried secrets and lies that bind the family together in Famla, a new play by acclaimed writer John McCann.

Premiering at the MAC from March 21 to 25 before a short tour of Northern Ireland, the dark comedy challenges the stories we tell ourselves to hide the truth of who we really are. It is supported by Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and stars Rhodri Lewis, Hayley McQuillan and Tara Lynne O’Neill as three lost souls in search of salvation.

Hector has passed this place all her young life. An old house. Must be a hundred years old. Maybe more. Looks abandoned. Festering. She never really gave the house a second thought. Until now when she needs a place to escape to. She discovers someone is still living inside. Someone spiteful. Refusing to budge. Clinging on…

Originally from County Armagh, Famla playwright John McCann now lives in Dundee. His work has been staged at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and he last collaborated with Tinderbox on The Cleanroom as part of the True North trilogy in 2010. John was previously on attachment with the National Theatre Studio, a member of the Royal Court Studio Writers' Group and recently participated in the Breakthrough programme, a year-long development attachment with the National Theatre of Scotland.

Famla director Patrick J O’Reilly, appointed as Tinderbox Artistic Director last year, says the play will resonate with audiences everywhere.

'Every family has buried secrets and lies that we hope will never come to surface but John’s play beautifully digs them up and reveals the truth for us all to witness. Famla is hilarious, haunting and heartbreaking in equal measure.

'With its riotous, nightmarish, grotesque and juicy behavior and dialogue, John creates a menacing and brooding atmosphere that will keep audiences wondering what’s coming next as it twists and turns between light and shade.

Rhodri Lewis, Hayley McQuillan and Tara Lynne O'Neill in Tinderbox Theatre Company's Famla by John McCann (Photo by Carrie Davenport) (1).jpg

'He also paints a vivid picture of a small rural community in which you can almost see the curtains twitching and hear the tongues wagging of those bursting to know, feeling it’s their right to know what’s going on behind closed doors in this mysterious house.'

McCann sees parallels between the answers sought by his characters and the wider debate about how we deal with the past In Northern Ireland.

'The lives of the characters in Famla have been blighted by what happened many years previously. The problem is, they each have very different notions concerning what actually took place,' he said.

'A key moment in the play shows characters deliberately placing themselves in an imagined future where they have a chance to practice and experience what it might be like to actively reclaim and redefine your past. If successful they will potentially unlock their future. A key question for me is: will this imagined future manage to contain their different versions or be held hostage by them. Also, when will you know it’s the right time to stop re-hashing and rehearsing an imagined future and start living instead?'

Gilly Campbell, Arts Development Officer for Drama and Dance, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, 'The Arts Council is pleased to support this new production from Tinderbox Theatre Company through National Lottery funding. We are committed to bringing great art within the reach of everyone and would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy Famla as it tours theatres across Northern Ireland this spring.'

Famla is recommended for ages 16 + and is at The MAC in Belfast from Tuesday March 21 to Saturday 25 at 8.00pm (plus Saturday matinee 3.30pm). Tickets available by phoning (028) 9023 5053 or at www.themaclive.com.

The production will then tour to Cushendall Golf Club (March 29), Craic Theatre, Coalisland (March 30), The Playhouse, Derry (March 31) and The Market Place, Armagh (April 1). Booking details available at www.tinderbox.org.uk.