Christina Reid


Life

1942-2015 [Christina Jean; née Orchin]; b. 12 March, Belfast, dg. a docker and a namesake mother who worked in linen mills and as a waitress; brought up in the Ardoyne; ed. Everton primary and Belfast Model School for Girls; held clerical and secretarial jobs; m. Michael Reid, a civil engineer, 1963; raised family of three dgs. (Heidi, Tara and Siubhan); enrolled in Eng. Lit. degree at QUB, but ceased on production of her successful play Tea in a China Cup (Lyric Th., 1983), commenced writing plays with Did You Hear the One About the Irishman ...? (1980), a Romeo-and-Juliet tale and winner of the Ulster TV Drama Award, 1980; Tea in a China Cup, dealing with three generations of a working-class Protestant women and set on the day of the Orange Order Parades, was runner-up in the runner up to Irish Times/Dublin Theatre Festival Women’s Playwright Award, 1982;

 
appt. writer-in-residence and Lyric Theatre (1983-84); winner of Thames TV Playwright Scheme Award 1983; wrote Joyriders (1986) for Paines Plough Co., and set in Divis Flats, Belfast, which she visited beforehand and answering to to O'Casey's The Shadow of a Gunman; played successfully at Tricycle theatre in Kilburn, London; divorced, and m. Richard Howard, 1987 - moving to Twickenham in south London; appt. writer-in-residence to Young Vic., London (1988-89); also The Last of a Dyin’ Race (1986), winner of Giles Cooper Award; adapted My Name, Shall I Tell You My Name? (BBC Radio 4, 1987) for the stage at the Dublin theatre Festival of 1989, with flashbacks depicting the antagonism between a Protestant World-War I veteran and his Derry granddaughter Andrea, who has been brought up on his stories but learns other sides of the Ulster myth; toured to Yew Tree Th., Ballina, 1989; script-writer on BBC Citizens (1987-91), created by Marilyn Irmie and A. J. Quinn;
 

wrote The Belle of Belfast City (1986), with a cast of five Protestant women in a corner shop the week of an anti-Anglo-Irish rally - winner of George Devine Award of the Royal Court and first played in London by Orange Tree at Richmond-on-Thames in 1993; wrote Did You Hear the One About the Irishman? (King’s Head, Islington), ; also Lords, Dukes and Earls (1989), commissioned by Young Vic;); wrote Clowns (1996) a sequel to Joyriders, tracing the lives of the teenagers eight years on; Reid was the subject of an interview session at the Synge Summer School, June-July, 2009; acted as patron to Youth Action Northern Ireland; d. of cancer of the pancreas, June 2015. ATT

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Works
Premiers
  • Tea In A China Cup (Lyric Th., Belfast, 1983);
  • Did You Hear The One About The Irishman ...? (NY 1985);
  • Joyriders (Tricycle Th., London, 1986);
  • The Belle of Belfast City (Lyric Th., Belfast, 1989);
  • My Name, Shall I Tell You My Name? (Andrews Lane Th., Dublin 1989);
  • Les Misérables (Nottingham Playhouse 1992);
  • The King of the Castle (Cottesloe Th./National Th., London 1999);
  • Clowns (The Room, Orange Tree, Richmond, 1996);
  • A Year And A Day (National Th., , London 2007).

The Last of a Dyin’ Race (1986); Tea in a China Cup [and] Joyriders (London: Methuen 1987); The Belle of Belfast City and Did You Hear the One About the Irishman ...? (London: Methuen 1989); also “Wasteground”, in Threshold, 35 (Winter 1984/85), pp.34-39. Also The Belle of Belfast City rep. in The Methuen Drama Anthology of Irish Drama, ed. & intro. by Patrick Lonergan (London: Methuen 2008).

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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;
  • Carla J. McDonough, ‘Christina Reid ’ in Irish Playwrights, 1880-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook, ed. Bernice Schrank & William Demastes (CT: Greenwood Press 1997), pp.300-07;
  • Riana O’Dwyer, ‘The Imagination of Women’s Reality: Christina Reid and Marina Carr’, in Theatre Stuff: Critical Essays on Contemporary Irish Theatre, ed. Eamonn Jordan (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2000), pp.236-56.

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

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Commentary
Elizabeth Doyle, ‘Men don’t cook in west Belfast’, Fortnight (Mar 1995); discusses Did You Hear the One About the Irishman? (1987) [Allison, a middle-class Protestant, tries to heal divide between disparate groups]; The Belle of Belfast City (1989) [Dolly, grandmother, former musichall star, keeps public world at bay; she is black, setting Northern Irish conflict in perspective]; Tea in a China Shop (1983) [set 1939-72; three generations of a family; narrator Beth; deals with rituals of Orange Order and associated sectarianisms about ‘clarty’ (dirty) Catholics]; Joyriders (1986), name for Govt. scheme at former Lagan Linen Mill; Divis Flats; includes songs composed by women in Divis Flats].

John Keyes, Play Review, in Fortnight (March 1995), sees Joyriders (Belfast Lyric, 26 Jan-18 Feb. 1995), in Virtual Reality Th. Co., production, dir. David Grant; first produced by Pip Broughton for Paines Plough in mid-1980s [sic], he calls it deeply flawed: ‘as with much of Christina Reid’s work, it is incurably sentimental, while the dramatic structure is non-existent ... uses methods of narration abandoned in England in 1956. ... central character climbs rickety staircase, telephones her friend Claudia and tells us what is to happen’; praises individual performances from Emma O’Neill, Jack McGowran, Peter Ballance and Brendan McNally.

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Notes
Tea in a China Cup (1983) and “My Name, Shall I Tell You My Name?” (1987) both relate to World War I (see Heinz Kosok, op. cit. 2001, in “Criticism”, supra).

Joyriders (1986): A moving, tragicomic story of four teenagers taking part in a Youth Training Programme in Belfast, 1986, surrounded by The Troubles; culminates with the death of Maureen; originally inspired by Reid’s visits to Youth Training Programmes and the Divis Community Centre in Belfast in the 1980s with songs were written and first performed by residents of Divis Flats. Joyriders opened at the Tricycle Theatre in London (1986). The sequelClowns revisits the characters eight years later. (See Drama Online - online.)

Did You Hear the One About the Irishman ...? (1987): a Romeo-and-Juliet tale in which Allison, the neice of a Protestant politician, falls in love with Brian whose brother is serving a life sentence for terrorist offences. The play parallels scenes of their two families, doubling characters to bring together the two groups on stage where the Brian’s optimism is defeated by sectarian forces more powerful than either of them. First produced during a Royal Shakespeare Company tour of America in 1985; a revised version was first performed at the King’s Head Theatre, London, in 1987. (See Drama Online - online.)

Clowns (1996): sequel to Joyriders reuniting its characters on the eve of the first IRA ceasefire, eight years after Maureen’s death. The Youth Training Scheme centre has become the Lagan Mill Shopping Centre, and Arthur is about to open his new café-bar. Sandra returns from London where she has been working as a stand-up comedian, telling jokes about Irish people to make the English laugh. She and the play are haunted by the ghost of Maureen, a raw, mocking reminder of the tragedy that sent Sandra away. It is a play about the moment between history and future, its characters trapped by the pain of the past but faintly hopeful about an end to the conflict which has defined their lives. First performed in The Room at the Orange Tree, Richmond (1996). (See Drama Online - online.)

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