A DRAMATISATION of the IRA bombing in Brighton in 1984 attempts to tackle the impact of the Troubles on the city from the controversial standpoint of reconciliation and understanding one’s enemy.
New play The Bombing of The Grand Hotel, which is currently in production, focuses on the unlikely friendship which has been forged between Patrick Magee, the IRA bomber responsible for the attack, and Jo Berry, whose father was killed in the blast.
But while their unique story has inspired many in the time that has passed since the Brighton tragedy, it has drawn nearly as much criticism and hostility over those years.
Striking the necessary balance between the two corners has been a key consideration for the team behind the production, Director Paul Hodson told The Irish Post this week.
“I am a Brighton resident and was here when the bomb went off,” he explains.
“It was a quarter of a mile from where I was living and I saw the effects of it the next morning. So it has always been a story for the city as far as I am concerned. But when I came across the story of
Jo Berry and Pat Magee in more recent years I was fascinated by their journey.”
The pair – who reconciled and became friends following Magee’s release from prison under the Good Friday Agreement in 1999 – have spent the past 14 years sharing international platforms while speaking about forgiveness and reconciliation.
But Hodson, who joined forces with The Bombing of The Grand Hotel writers 18 months ago, is under no illusion that everyone will feel positively about the personal achievements of the play’s protagonists.
“The play does focus on issues of reconciliation around the bombing,” he admits.
“But we were keen for it not to be a heroic tale of these wonderful people who have done this incredible thing, because I know that some people – and parts of me even – feel hostile to what they are doing.”
He added: “We are also aware of the irony that myself and writers Josie Melia and Julie Everton, who does have some Irish blood, are all southern English people approaching this project.
“But I think it’s very important for English people to try and write such a complex take on Ireland and the issues around the Troubles.”
Regardless of the audience’s stance on the legacy of the Brighton bombing, the innovative creative team behind the play are confident it will at least extend current debates around the topic.
“What we want is for people not only to come along and enjoy the history of this tale but to get involved in the complexities of the reconciliation and the peace process also,” Hodson explains.
“There are other characters and voices included which are very much dissenting from what Pat and Jo are doing, which I think makes the whole drama complex and interesting.
“But we have to remember that when the bombing happened it was a very different era in politics” he adds.
“I was younger and more naïve then myself and my attitude to the whole thing has changed and matured over the years – certainly over the time I have spent working with Josie and Julie in this process.
“Ultimately this incident came at a fascinating time in history, so if it is a time you know nothing about there is a history lesson in this play which is fascinating and on another level the narrative around what Jo and Pat do, their journey, is an incredible story too.”
Co-produced by the Wildspark Theatre Company and The Cockpit Theatre, The Bombing of The Grand Hotel will make its debut at The Cockpit Theatre in London from April 13 to May 2.
For tickets or further information visit www.wildsparktheatre.com or www.thecockpit.org.uk