Arts

The History of The Peace (accordin' to my Ma) back at Grand Opera House

Two years after its first run, The History of the Peace (accordin' to my Ma) is returning to Belfast's Grand Opera House. Writer and cast member Conor Grimes tells Kelly McAllister how the show has been updated and why it was created in the first place

Conor Grimes, Tara Lynne O'Neill and Alan McKee in the History of Peace (accordin' to my Ma)
Kelly McAllister

THE History of The Peace (accordin' to my Ma) is returning to the Grand Opera House in Belfast with plenty of fresh material and a host of new characters that are expected to make it funnier than ever before.

The sequel to The History of Troubles (accordin' to my Da) follows the life of community worker Karen Reid (Maria Connolly) from 1994 to 2016 as it tell the story of a post-peace process Northern Ireland with ceasefires, Drumcree and the flag protests all featuring in the play.

Written by Martin Lynch, Conor Grimes and Alan McKee, The History of The Peace originally opened in Belfast in 2016 and has now been updated to cover events which have happened since – which, according to Grimes, is an awful lot of stuff.

"We have got stacks of new material," he says.

"The RHI scandal, the collapse of Stormont and all that, it's all in the play. I am really really excited about it to be honest with you, I'm delighted. It's a really funny show."

Set in east Belfast, The History of The Peace is described by Grimes as "the Protestant point of view" – indeed, its predecessor was described by some as "only one version of events".

"We had people coming up and saying 'what about the Protestant side of the story?' and women coming up and saying 'what about the women's side of the story?'," reveals Grimes.

"We sort of realised that there was another story there – but at that stage the ceasefires had all taken place, and decommissioning. So what we decided to do was a new show."

Grimes, who also stars in the new production alongside co-writer and long-time comedy foil Alan McKee, insists that the play is not at all political, but he does admit that there is a political element to it.

"We have Arlene and a fast-talking Michelle, I suppose, so I imagine that'll get a good laugh," he says.

The comedian explains that real life events inspire him and his fellow co-writers, with a huge element being the similarities between the Protestant and Catholic communities rather than the differences.

"In The History of The Troubles, there is this famous character called Fireball, and he is a really comical character," says Grimes.

"We realised there were Fireballs in east Belfast as well as west Belfast – so we created Firebell, who is a cousin of Fireball. The point is that these characters exist in every community.

"It's like an alien coming to east Belfast and then west Belfast and not being able to tell the difference. Where as, with us, we know the difference.

"Everybody is the same and every community is the same, trying to survive and just trying to get by and look after each other. There is no difference.

"Especially in Belfast, everybody has got the same concerns."

When asked about the new characters who feature in the play, Grimes remained tight-lipped, only confirming that there would indeed be a few.

Instead, he talked about existing characters and the humour behind them.

"Imagine someone who lives in East Belfast and who has a very open mind to Irish language and stuff like that," he says.

"The idea was this one woman who is very open minded and good natured living in the heart of Protestant, loyalist, east Belfast."

Having worked in comedy together for over 20 years with Alan McKee, Grimes claims that being quite different while sharing the same sense of humour has helped the duo along the way.

They joined in on The History of The Troubles after Martin Lynch came to see one of their sketches.

"He seen one of our shows and liked the way we worked," recalls Grimes.

"We did a short show on Rathlin Island, just to see if we could work together, and it was good. So we decided to do the History of The Troubles."

Although recent events have undoubtedly provided new material for the writers, Grimes says the main reason that the show is returning to the stage is because of the huge demand for it.

"We do shows and if people ask about them after, then we realise that people want to see them," he tells me.

"When we did it the first time it was for one week in the Grand Opera House and a lot of people really didn't get to see it. When you get feedback on the street, that's what drives you to do it again."

He adds: "It's wonderful to be doing the Grand Opera House, it is a really great night out for the audience."

:: The History of Peace (accordin' to my Ma),Grand Opera House, Belfast, August 27 to September 1. For tickets and info contact the box office on 028 9024 1919 or visit Goh.co.uk. The show will also be touring for the following dates: Newry Town Hall (Aug 25), Riverside Theatre, Coleraine (Sept 3), The Braid, Ballymena (Sept 4), Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen (Sept 5 & 6), Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown (Sept 7), Millennium Forum, Derry (Sept 8).

 

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