Handbag Positive | Preview
Belfast Waterfront 16 – 30 October
Late night visit to A&E paved the way for hilarious new play.
The idea of Handbag Positive came to writer Donna O’Connor after she had a late night visit to The Royal Victoria Hospital A&E. It was during a run of her hugely successful play A Night With George that Donna managed to hurt two of her fingers. Fittingly it was after a show in the Waterfront that Donna’s husband had to take her straight to A&E for what turned out to be an 8 hour visit. Donna said “To pass the time I people watched. There were all manner of people there with all manner of ailments and an overstretched, exhausted and exasperated body of staff who were trying to accommodate the infinite flood of patients with finite resources.” But out of this experience came Handbag Positive, the idea of two women who haven’t seen each other in many years and bumping into each other and what would happen. The show also features the soundtrack of the Bay City Rollers who were the One Direction of the 70’s when the two girls were growing up.
Attracta and Nora were the best of friends when they were teenagers. They shared everything from their Bay City Roller trousers to boyfriends. In the dark days of the late 1970s they were for the most part oblivious to how bad things were. There days weren’t dark at all, they were fun filled and care free. Bomb scares at their school weren’t scary at all, they got a day off and that was ok by them. They were just your typical self-absorbed it’s-all-about-me teenagers. Nothing would stand in the way of them getting their teenage kicks. There was important stuff to do like getting the latest style and taping the chart show on Sunday night because you had to know all the words of the latest songs. They sang shangalang and they ran with the gang until something stopped them in their tracks.
They drift apart as people do until fate reunites them in their middle age. Both of them married and had children and both of them as mothers became carers, cooks, cleaners and clairvoyants among other things. Their kids have now flown the nest, and just when they were looking forward to ‘me time’, their mothers take sick. It’s back to sleepless nights and endless washing.
In a local A&E they find themselves back in their teenage years, exchanging stories and songs as well as insults. The ghosts from their past return to haunt them. It’s Halloween night and there’s all manner of humankind here, there’s drunken demons and scary witches aplenty filling the reception area and some of them don’t need costumes! Who needs a good book when you’re in A&E in Belfast? There’s more drama, intrigue and comedy here than you’ll find in any Hollywood blockbuster. Nora and Attracta are glad of the distraction as they shift uncomfortably in their far from comfortable seats. They wonder at the spectacle of it all and wonder why they ever liked each other and, in particular, how they ever got a lumber wearing Bay City Roller trousers.
Handbag Positive is a new and hilariously funny play by Donna O’ Connor co-writer of A Night With George. Starring Alexandra Ford (Give My Head Peace) and Christina Nelson (Mistletoe and Crime). Directed by Alan McKee (History of the Troubles (accordin to my Da)) and produced by Joe Rea (50 Shades of Red White and Blue). Set and Costumes by Niall Rea and Lights and Sound by James Kennedy.
During a run of A Night With George at the Waterfront I fell and broke two fingers which necessitated a lengthy attendance at A & E. I waited all night to be seen and by the time morning came I was freezing cold and couldn’t feel my ass because of the hard seat I had to sit on. To pass the time I people watched. There were all manner of people there with all manner of ailments and an overstretched, exhausted and exasperated body of staff who were trying to accommodate the infinite flood of patients with finite resources. It was the last place I wanted to be, having just come off stage and facing a matinee and an evening performance the next night, but accidents and emergencies happen. I was angry that the waiting time was so long; it wasn’t the staff who had created that situation, but it was them who had face the frustration of patients and family members. What compounded the situation further was the steady stream post chucking out time of drunk, aggressive and injured party animals who behaved worse than any animal I’ve seen from around these parts.
Lack of sleep is something my nearest and dearest will tell you is something I don’t cope well with, but the night was to yield more challenges and I ended sitting next to a man who whiffed of booze and who talked to himself in a threatening manner. The occupant of the seat of my other side was a frequent flyer who had every illness known to man and let me know in detail. Unfortunately there was nothing wrong with her mouth. My first thought was to take my broken and throbbing digits and leg it, but I kept on thinking I’ll be seen soon, but optimism in A&E is rarely sustainable. Out of this human quagmire the idea of Handbag Positive was born.
A special thanks to the British Red Cross for supplying the ambulance for the launch.
Handbag Positive runs at the Waterfront Studio from 16 – 30 October, tickets can be purchased from the box office on 028 9033 44 55 or www.waterfront.co.uk