Arts

Hit homelessness play Myra's Story opens in Derry before touring Ireland

Brian Foster's homelessness-themed Maire: A Woman of Derry wowed audiences around the world for over 12 years. Now, Foster's Dublin-set rewrite of the one-woman play, Myra's Story, is returning to the Derry playwright's home city as part of a new national tour

Fionna Hewitt-Twamley in Myra's Story which opens at Millennium Forum tomorrow evening

ARRIVING at Derry's Millennium Forum tomorrow night, Myra's Story is Derry playwright Brian Foster's Dublin-set adaptation of his long-running stage hit Maire: A Woman of Derry about an alcoholic living rough on the city streets.

Starring Carmel McCafferty, Maire: A Woman Of Derry played on and off around the world for 145 performances from 2001 until 2013, when McCafferty retired from the role.

Myra's Story, which Foster wrote in 2009, will play at the Millennium Forum until Saturday October 6 before going on tour around Ireland.

"People absolutely loved the original version," Foster explains of how his Maire has now become Myra. "But I knew it couldn’t go on forever. So, long before it came to its natural end, I was already planning its revival. But I wanted to push the boat out. Wanted to give it a whole new lease of life.

"So, I moved the story from Derry to Dublin and changed other elements. I would estimate the new version consists of 75 per cent of the old play and 25 per cent new input. But I’ve been careful to retain all the elements that made the original version such a success, including the shattering Bloody Sunday scene."

Myra’s Story portrays a day in the life of homeless "wine connoisseur" Myra McLaughlin as she begs for money from passers-by. Jumping from character to colourful character, Myra explains how she came to be in her present situation with street-smart style, wit and honesty.

Beginning her narrative as she recovers from a raucous 48th birthday celebration, Myra reflects on her attempt to escape what her father calls 'The Beast' by marrying at 16 and beginning a new life with her beloved Tommy McLaughlin.

Along her rollercoaster journey, audiences get to meet an assortment of people who have coloured Myra’s life, including habitual scrounger Tina The Tap, heavy smoker Big Bridie and her husband Jimmy The Tadpole, innocent little Norris The Gnome and cross-eyed Matilda and her partner, "Dublin’s hairiest man", Christy.

"Theatregoers will get to meet all of the original characters Maire portrayed to tell her incredible story," explains Foster. "But now they’re colourful Dubliners instead of colourful Derry ‘wans’.

"This has allowed me to bring some great new comedy into the play, as well as great new tragedy. But, to pull it off, I had to find myself a great new actor with an authentic Dublin voice."

That actor is Dublin's Fionna Hewitt-Twamley, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Feature Film at this year's Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Awards for her performance in the hard-hitting Irish film Cardboard Gangsters.

"I was looking for a very special someone with the ability not just to act Myra, but to physically and mentally become her for each performance," says Foster. "In Dublin, I auditioned a number of actors, some of them well known faces from television. But couldn’t find anyone with that streetwise grit needed to carry off the role.

"Then Fionna walked into the audition room in Dublin’s Temple Bar, and within seconds I knew I had found my new Myra. I was delighted to find such a special person – she's a rare find indeed.

"And I’m over the moon that top Dublin director Michael Scott [of Machine Theatre Company] is directing."

This new version of the play has already had productions in Canada and America, where it won Best Tragedy at New York’s United Solo Festival.

David McLaughlin, chief executive of the Millennium Forum and a veteran theatre producer, is producing the Myra's Story tour which will visit Enniskillen's Ardhowen Theatre (October 10, 11), Theatre Royal, Waterford (October 12), Downpatrick's Great Hall (October 13), An Culturlann, Belfast (October 14),The Marketplace Theatre, Armagh (October 24, 25), Draíocht, Dublin (October 26, 27), Coleraine's Riverside Theatre (November 8) and The Strule Theatre in Omagh (November 9, 10)

:: Tickets and showtimes available via Millenniumforum.co.uk and individual venue websites.

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