Under the Black Rock - Glen Wallace
Posing questions about family loyalty, morality and how young men and women are drawn into violence, Under the Black Rock is a play set in Belfast around the time of the Troubles, starring Evanna Lynch, best known for her role as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films. With twists and turns of plot, and laced with gallows humour, the thriller traces the shifting fortunes of a family at the height of Northern Ireland’s violent recent history.
We spoke to actor Glen Wallace about the play and his character
Tell us a bit about Under the Black Rock
Set in mainly in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1979/1980, Under the Black Rock combines a family story set in the wider context of the community. The Nationalist and Republican community. We explore how networks, be they blood bound or ambition led, co-exist given the set of particular demands that were presented during the extraordinary time of "the Troubles". The concept of family, be it the one that you are born into or the family you find amongst likeminded souls, betrayal, love, justification, retribution - and all through the lens of our own special sense of dark humour that exists to this day in Northern Ireland. If you couldn't laugh what else would you do. It is also important to realise that we are working through the lens of hindsight and with distance, despite the fact that Brexit, the Northern Irish Protocol and the current discussions around the Good Friday Agreement actually brings the storytelling into the present day with alarming sharp focus.
Do you enjoy being in plays that explore difficult topics?
Yeah, I guess as an actor I am drawn to the difficult... The challenging... The stories that aren't necessarily yours, the view point, the situation that maybe you don't understand. It is important to find the truth of any individual characters story which you do through the written word and also the rehearsal process. It is important not to judge the character or their beliefs but find out what and how motivates them in their given circumstances.
Has it made you think differently about the Troubles?
Potentially. When you are living through it, it is your "normal" and again it is only with distance, be that geographical and/or time you have the luxury of looking back and assessing or rather processing what was a lived experience. The low level trauma of growing up in Belfast during the 1980's and '90's that can be instantly accessed with a simple sentence or a sound effect or a song.
What’s your character like, and what drew you to the part?
(Brendan) Swords is what I would probably call a loose cannon. A lone wolf, a rebel, but one that is working within his own constructed and justified set of rules. He maybe isn't the most intelligent of beings and yet has the capacity to navigate a very complex world and does so very successfully. What drew me to the part was the age range and character description that Tim (Edge) our writer had originally written! A guy, mid-forties from Belfast that lived in Belfast! Swords is a complex character and the journey that he goes on throughout the story is ultimately why I wanted to audition for Ben (Kavanagh) our director in the first place. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Is there a message for the audience in the play?
We talked about this in the early days of rehearsals. I am certain there is more than one story in the play for everyone that comes to watch it. Nothing is ever black and white as you will see in the journey of our characters. You will identify with parts of one, maybe more. Perhaps understand one more than another and then question your own judgement or moral compass as they work through their dilemmas over the course of the play. There are three sides to every story. My side, your side and then what actually happened. We are coloured by our own lived experiences, shaped by our past, our opinions, our education, our preconceived ideas, our upbringing, our belief systems and then our imagination, empathy and compassion. I wouldn't even begin to try and pin point a singular message other than to come along and process the story for yourself.
What will the audience be thinking about when they leave?
See my previous answer! I hope that the audience will have experienced a complex and (hopefully) entertaining community story, that is rooted in truth and that they will have invested in each of the characters journey enough that hopefully it will make them think. Make them question. Maybe even pick a side. And then change their minds. Isn't that what great storytelling is about?
Under the Black Rock is at Arcola Theatre 2 – 25 March