This article charts the evolution and development of Etcetera Theatre Company, a new drama group founded in 2013 to enable Ulster Loyalists to engage in storytelling via the stage. It explains the genesis of the group and the individual perspective of its main writer, Bobby Niblock, who was imprisoned for the killing of another Loyalist in 1975 and served time in Long Kesh prison under the supervision of Loyalist icon – and iconoclast – Gusty Spence. It also addresses his previous attempts to write for the theatre and the hurdles he has faced, symptomatic of the pressures and stigmas many Loyalists face from Unionist politicians and ‘respectable’ society. It locates the initial and general reluctance of Ulster Loyalists to portray themselves and their narratives and how this process is continuingly stifled by the Troubles conflict essentially being re-channelled into the cultural sphere. The article then explores Etcetera’s first major production, Tartan, which played at several Belfast venues in May 2014, conveying how the play represents both an authentic Loyalist story and a more reflective attempt to address Niblock’s former violent past; especially in the form of generational tension. The latter is shown to be relevant by the ongoing, targeted recruitment of young Protestant working class males by Loyalist paramilitary groups. The article ends by outlining the potential direction(s) of Etcetera and tackling some of the contentious themes raised by the initiative.
|New Hibernia Review
|Published - 15 Dec 2016