Marie Jones


Life
1951- [Sarah “Marie” Jones]; b. Belfast; co-fnd. Charabanc Company with Maureen Macauley, Carol Scanlon Moore, Eleanor Methven and Brenda Winter, to provide roles for women, 1983; emerged as the writer of the group, the others conducting the research for her pen; her first play, assisted by Martin Lynch and director Pam Brighton, Lay Up Your Ends (1983), tells a story of women in linen industry in the 1930s;
 
also wrote and produced with CharabancOul’ Delf and False Teeth (1984), Now You’re Talking (1985), Gold on the Streets (1986), Girls in the Big Picture (1987), Somewhere Over the Balcony (1988), based on researches in Divis Flats; and The Hamster Wheel (1990), dealing with the mental illness of Norman and its impact on his family; also with Charabanc, Wedding’s Wee’ins and Wakes, commissioned by the BBC, toured Belfast community centres, 1990, followed by a TV version;
 
moved on to work by commission for Replay, a Belfast theatre-in-education company, 1990, writing Under Napoleon’s Nose and It’s a Waste of Time, Tracy; three television dramas for BBC ‘Lifeschool’; adaptation of Gogol’s The Government Inspector (1994) toured Ireland and played at Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn; A Night in November (Tricycle Theatre 1994), dealing with the life of Kenneth, a Belfast Protestant who confronts traditional sectarianism in the face of attitudes and travels to an Irish football international; Women on the Verge of HRT (1996);
 
Ethel Workman is Innocent, playing at Chelsea Centre Theatre Company, dir. Francis Alexander, designed by Tim Shortall (6 June-1 July 1995; DubbelJoint Prods. premiered Stones in His Pockets, opened 7 Aug. Whiterock Buildings, West Belfast Festival, 1996, and went on to play with designs by Robert Ballagh at the Dublin Theatre Festival, Oct. 1997 (Tivoli Theatre), before transferring to London and New York; received two Tony Award nominations; played Sarah Conlon in the Jim Sheridan film In the Name of the Father (1993);
 
works chiefly unpublished incl. A Night to Remember (NY Irish Centre Feb. 1998), a play about prejudice in Northern Ireland society and World-Cup soccer enthusiasm; enjoyed huge success with Stone in his Pockets (2000), a two-man play about despair and suicide in young men, and later involved in successful litigation against the players, who copyright entitlements in it; assisted in estab. of Double Joint Theatre Company; received the John Hewitt Award for outstanding contribution to culture, tradition and the arts in Northern Ireland; awarded DLitt by Univ. of Ulster (2006).

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Works
The Hamster Wheel, in David Grant, The Crack in the Emerald, New Irish Plays (Nick Hern Books 1990, 1994), pp.193-258; A Night in November (London: Nick Hern Books 1995; Dublin: New Island Books 1995, 1996), 48pp.; Women on the verge of HRT: A Play, with music by Neil Martin (London: Samuel French 1999), [8],44,[9]pp.; Stones in His Pockets [with] A Night in November (London: Nick Hern 2000), 108pp.

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See Claudia W. Harris, ed., Four Plays by the Charabanc Theatre Company: Inventing Women’s Work (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 2007), 340pp. [Marie Jones, et al.]; also an extract from Lay Up Your Ends, in Ruth Hooley, ed., The Female Line, Northern Irish Women Writers (NI Women’s Rights Movt. 1985).

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Criticism
  • Anthony Roche, ‘Northern Irish Drama: Imaging Alternatives’, in Contemporary Irish Drama From Beckett to McGuinness (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1995), pp.216-78, espec. pp.241f.;
  • Brian Fallon, notice of ‘The Hamster Wheel’, in The Crack in the Emerald: New Irish Plays [1994], ed. David Grant, in The Irish Times (14 Jan. 1995) [‘tragicomic Belfast wit’];
  • Elaine Lafferty, ‘Broadway in their Pockets’, in The Irish Times, 26 May 2001 [Magazine], pp.22-24 [Sean Campion & Conleth Hill, Tony Award winners];
  • Pat Moylan [interview], in Theatre Talk: Voices of Irish Theatre Practitioners, ed. Lilian Chambers, Ger Fitzgibbon, Eamonn Jordan, et al. (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2001), pp.213-19;
  • Eamonn Jordan, ‘Kicking with both Feet?: Marie Jones’s A Night in November’, in The Irish Review, 38, 1 (Spring 2008), pp.49-60.
  • Anna McMullan, ‘Gender, Authorship and Performance in Selected Plays by Contemporary Irish Women Playwrights: Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy, Marie Jones, Marina Carr, Emma Donoghue’, in Theatre Stuff: Critical Essays on Contemporary Irish Theatre, ed. Eamonn Jordan (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2000), pp.34-46.

See also Imelda Foley, The Girls in the Big Picture: Gender in Contemporary Ulster Theatre (Belfast: Blackstaff 2003), 186pp.

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Commentary
Patrick Burke, reviewing David Grant, ed., The Crack in the Emerald [2nd edn.] (Hern Books 1994), writes: ‘More realist in temper than either the Carr or the Harding, Marie Jones’s The Hamster Wheel deals with the predicament of a Belfast woman whose husband has been paralysed in an accident. The characters are generally credible, the dialogue is sharp and lively, in a play often hilarious as well as deeply moving. It is marred only by occasional imposition of rather than realisation of sentiment.’ (Irish Literary Supplement, Spring 1996)

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Lawrence Van Gelder, review of A Night to Remember, NY Times (28 Feb. 1998), played at the Irish Arts Center (NY), limited run; one-man show by Marie Jones with virtuoso performance by Dan Gordon as Kenneth Norman McAllister; set during 1994 Football World Cup; McAllister is a Belfast Protestant working as a clerk in a welfare office, making things difficult for Catholic including his supervisor, Gerry, a Catholic, who cannot gain entrance to the golf club that he plays in; Kenneth takes his 60-year-old chain-smoking father-in-law, Ernie, to a soccer match between the two Irelands, the Republic to proceed to Emal Comp. in the US if it wins; Ernie’s bigotted behavior shames Kenneth into a re-examination of his Irishness causing him to kick over the traces and head off with a planeload of Irish fans bound for New York from Dublin. (See NY Times review [online].)

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Brian Logan, review of A Night in November at Tricycle Th., London, in The Guardian (Sat. 13 July 2002): ‘“I am a Protestant, but I am an Irishman”, concludes the Ulsterman hero of Marie Jones’s 1994 monologue A Night in November, with such a flush of pride that the actor, Marty Maguire, is still brushing away his tears at the curtain call. So romantically does Jones depict the Irish identity - she is the author of Stones in His Pockets - and so negatively the identity of the Ulster Protestant that it would be easy to throw oneself to one’s feet, dance a jig and sing a few rounds of “Danny Boy”. But while [...] Jones’s script nails the everyday bigotry of Belfast life, the play’s descent into sentimental nationalism strikes an unsatisfying, unhelpful note. […] / But Jones’s critical intelligence accedes to affectionate nationalism as Kenneth joins the Republic’s football fans on their trip to see Ireland beat Italy at USA ’94. Whereas in act one she uses sport as a revealing prism through which to view nationalist loyalties, after the interval it becomes an excuse to celebrate the craic and absolve Kenneth of his cultural heritage. “At the end of the day”, a fellow supporter coos to him, “aren’t we all a part of Jack Charlton’s army?” But Jones fails to persuade us that Ireland’s fractured identity is so easily resolved.’ (See full version online.]

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Domingos Nunez, ‘A Brief History Of Cia Ludens and its Productions of Irish Plays In Brazil’, in Ilha do Desterro Florianópolis, 58 (Jan./June 2010), pp.479-505 - on Stones in His Pockets in translation:
One of the first questions posed by the company was whether such a play and its context would make any sense to a non-English-speaking audience. Although Jones wrote her play in Standard English, with a perceptible Irish lilt in most of the lines, the particularities of the fourteen characters featured are strongly demarcated by the various English accents, suggested to differentiate their places of origin. In the plot, all of them are part of the crew of a Hollywood blockbuster that is being filmed in a [490] scenic spot in Co. Kerry, Ireland. The use of English accents was devised with the intention of associating the social roles of the characters with the clichéd positions the countries they were born in occupy in the long history of colonization in Ireland. No wonder, then, that all extras in the film are Irish people playing dispossessed peasants; the director and one of his assistants are English; and the leading part is played by an American star, even though the character is an Irish girl educated in England. A closer reading of the play, nonetheless, reveals that to a certain extent the use of accents had been devised as a metaphor of the power relations and political negotiations between the “developed” nations and the weaker ones. This kind of struggle between forces is also likely to occur among fellow countrymen from heterogeneous geographical regions but who speak the same language. Thus we did not try to find regional modes of speaking Portuguese as a substitute for the English accents suggested by Jones. In a Brazilian context such a procedure would sound like a biased and prejudiced choice. We preferred instead to emphasise this hierarchical, social and economic position of the characters in a capitalist system, and ignore any peculiar linguistic forms they might use as a means of communication. The fact that the film inside the play is American sufficed to get across the message of a “foreign” crew trying to interpret a “national” reality. To a certain extent the way of producing films in Hollywood, either about the themes of the United States itself or their interpretation of international ones, is very well known in Brazil; and American values and lifestyle are so widely disseminated in Brazil that the mere situation depicted in the play was enough to expose the criticism intended by the playwright accurately without any attempt to exacerbate it by the use of accents. Hollywood continues to be a prototype of success and wealth that has incited people’s imagination for decades. Therefore, it was clear that the circumstances involving the romantic Hollywood blockbuster in progress inside Jones’s play were not strange to a Brazilian audience (nor, no doubt, to almost any other audience around the world).
  Perhaps more than the language, the explicit references to John Ford’s classic The Quiet Man and its counterpart in Jones’s script, the [491] parody The Silent Valley, were stronger elements in establishing the more relevant connections between Irish and Brazilian contexts. Such references permeate the whole plot, to the point of generating a dichotomy between a desired and idealized national status and an immediate, and not-so-pleasant, reality. The film inside the play is about peacefully giving back the land taken over long ago through an arranged marriage between a “foreign” rich girl and a “local” farmer. Meanwhile the whole crew is obliged to face reality when they are informed that a local boy committed suicide because he was not allowed to take part in the film, and the extras will not be given permission to go to his funeral because the production is behind schedule. The consequence of this episode is that the native people gradually start to be aware of their roles in the film and, by extension, their roles inside the system they live in. The boy who drowned himself in the same manner as Virginia Woolf unintentionally triggers a process of awareness about different, but still cruel, methods of colonizing people that include monetary power and cultural impositions. From that point on, the extras in the film begin to demand a better position inside the system, and to bargain for a different role in the history of their own lives, land and people. They become real active citizens and the protagonists of their own film, no matter how successful it might be.
 This process of awareness, and the varying movements that lead the protagonists (ultimately, the two extras through whom all the other characters are filtered) towards it, was punctuated by three subtle changes in their costumes. At the beginning they are seen dressed in dull colours, and with their trousers and jackets inside out. At this moment they are only extras, accepting the rules imposed by the “foreigners” without any direct questioning. In a second stage, after a hard working day shooting in the fields, they go to the dressing room and take their clothes of just to put them on once more, this time the right way round. Right-side-out, their clothes are more colourful: the change intends to indicate that they have become, even if superficially, citizens not quite satisfied with the whole state of affairs, though still afraid of any kind of confrontation. This complete change of the side [492] they wear their clothes intends to show, at a connotative level, the first steps they were taking towards a demonstration that they did not simply belong to an expected obedient and anonymous gray mass of extras, but that they were individuals capable of an acute perception not only about their own position in that system, but also about their peers and superiors. After a night scene in a local pub among some other extras and part of the “foreign” crew, they are seen again in the dressing room putting their extras’ costumes on again for another day of shooting. Here the indicative note is that they put only their jackets on inside out. The main idea here is to suggest that from that moment on they start an irreversible process of total consciousness, of sensing their power as local citizens, even though at this stage only their lower halves, the more instinctive, desire-identifying part of their selves, were convinced of the different future roles they might play.
 But it is only when they change clothes again, putting their jackets on right-side-out once more, to go to the boy’s funeral, that their upper halves, symbolizing their feelings and reason, are completely taken by the necessity and urgency of building their own history, and conducting their own destinies. As one of them says to the other: “for the first time in my life I felt I could do something [...]. They can only knock us if we don’t believe in ourselves [...]” (Stones, 55). This attitude was strongly illustrated in one of the last scenes in which they dance, for a take of the film in celebration of the marriage of the hero and the heroine and the happy end of the fictional story; but instead of being dressed with their extras’ clothes as they were supposed to be, they were wearing the clothes of the funeral, their “citizen” costumes. Thus, even though acting as if they were extras, nothing in their countenances or clothes contributed to the veracity of such a picture. Their feelings and motivations had been radically transformed. And they end the play dressed as citizens determined to write and tell their own version of that story – which happened to be exactly the story the audience just saw paraded in front of its eyes. The play was, after all, the film they made or thought of making.

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Quotations
A Night in November (1994): ‘Support a shower of half-baked Fenian lovers ... I’d luk over it is they were real Irish, but sre for Jesus sake the half of them’s English that weren’t good enough to play for England and then they discover some oul Irish bog-woman that was meant to be their granny, they never set fut in Ireland before, wouldn’t have known a shelalaigh from a hole in the wall and now, be Jesus, you’d think they’d started the 1916 Easter Rising.’ (Stones in His Pockets [with] A Night in November, Nick Hern, Books 2000, p.69.) ‘I felt sick. I felt such shame ... ashamed of him, ashamed that I’d married someone who came from him, ashamed of stranding in the same place as men like him ... it’s beyond words, it’s beyond feeling ... I’m numb ... Greysteel seven Ireland nil ... Trick or Treat ... men walk into a pub on Halloween, shout Trick or Treat and mow down seven innocent people and these fuckin’ bastards are laughin’ ... Surely to God, surely to Christ these are not the people I am part of ... no, it’s not, don’t tell me, I’m not hearing them ...’ (Ibid., p.71.) [Cont.]

A Night in November (1994) - cont.: ‘I drove up the falls Road with Jerry, I had never been on the Falls Road in my life, never ... the sun was shining, the road as hiving with black cabs and women and children and army tanks and normality and I was nervous, like a stranger in a foreign country, not sure of the territory, feeling like they were all looking at me and knowning I was the enemy but no one paid a blind bit of notice, I fitted into the normality just like the soldiers ... I felt a sudden rush of inexplicable anger ... those soldiers look more at home here than me and this is my country ... what was I saying .. Jesus ... then suddenly I began to laugh out loud.’ (Ibid., p.82).

A Night in November (1994) - cont. ‘Tonight I absolve myself ... I am free of them ... I am free of it, I am a free man ... I am a Protestant man ... I am an Irish man.’o; (Ibid., p.108; all quoted in Jennifer Weatherall, UG Diss., 2006.)

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References
Anthologies, Katie Donovan, A. N. Jeffares, and Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1994); Ferocious Irish Women (1991), cites also among toured plays, Weddin’s, Weedins, and Wakes; also Under Napoleon’s Nose; It’s a Waste of Time, Tracy, for the Replay Th. co., Belfast; and three television plays for BBC ‘Life School’; extract from The Hamster Wheel, printed in Nick Hern, ed. (1990).

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Notes
Stepping in: Marie Jones steps in to play part in Pam Brighton’s Just a Prisoner’s Wife, in Féile an Phobail played at Whiterock Buildings during the Belfast West Festival, 1996; Stones in His Pockets opened on 7 Aug. at the same venue.

Arts Link: Cultural Events in N. Ireland (NI Arts Council release, Sept. 1996) lists Marie Jones, Stones in His Pockets, produced by DubbelJoint with Conleth Hill and Tim Murphy (‘brilliant double act’ - Irish news) touring N. Ireland centres after acclaimed opening in West Belfast Festival.

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Stones in His Pockets wins Evening Standard Award for Best West End Comedy; satire revealing trials of small Kerry town when Hollywood film-crew arrive to make blockbuster; played in London by Sean Campion and Conleth Hill, taking on 15 roles; reached Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn (March 1999); moved to Duke of York’s, West End (to 28 April , 2001); scheduled to open with same actors at Golden Theatre, Broadway (1 April 2001); screen adaption under preparation by Ben Hopkins. (See Irish Emigrant Arts Review, Dec. 2000).

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Tony Award: Sean Campion & Conleth Hill received the Tony Award (US) after two years successful touring of Marie Jones’s Stones in His Pockets (see Elaine Lafferty, ‘Broadway in their Pockets’, The Irish Times, 26 May 2001 [Magazine], pp.22-24).

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A Night to Remember, played by Marty Maguire at Tricycle Th. (London), dir. Tim Byron; revived at Andrews Lane Theatre (Aug. 2004), dir. Terry Byrne with Gavin Armstrong in the monologue-role. Charts a Protestant Belfastman's exposure to sectarianism of his own ‘tradition’ between two world-cup matches, the first a qualifier between the two Irelands in Windsor Park, the second the Republic of Ireland’s participation in the Final. Kenneth, a dole clerk, attends the former as a helper for his asthmatic father-in-law and is appalled by the sectarianism of the crowd. Afterwards he accepts an invitation to the home of his Catholic boss and finds it to be a delightful, creative scene in comparison with the the sterile tidiness of the house his neurotic wife Deborah maintains in a Protestant suburb. Exposed to a sectarian outburst after Greysteel her bigoted father, he resolves to go to the World Cup to support the Irish team, and professes himself tearfully an Irishman at the end.

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