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Images from the 'Crows on the Wire' production tour November 2013

 

Below are some of the comments compiled from evaluation forms that were collected after each performance. Comments are separated by venue and comments by schools are specified. There has been a wide range of opinions from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, from local people, young people and from visitors to Northern Ireland.

 


Worskhop1

Image from Schools' Engagement Programme

Waterside Theatre (Schools) - Derry/Londonderry

"I realised they're just men too."

"Very interesting to see their side of things as I'm from Derry and was raised as a Catholic."

"[The RUC] was seen as a very anti-Catholic police force."

"It made you realise that a bad reputation may have come from only a few officers."

waterside

Waterside Theatre Public Performance - Derry/Londonderry

"Times change for everyone, but the past doesn't. People won't forget, but need to move on for a more peaceful Northern Ireland."

One person who grew up in a Protestant community said: "I would have looked up to the RUC as a child."

A person who identified as a former RUC officer said of Crows on the Wire: "It was a very true account of how, as an officer, I felt betrayed by the government."

"The performance was brilliant. Well done Johnathan Burgess again for a great story being told."

"Served through this. Glad to see it is now being explored."

"It was useful to think about the individual and their experiences during the conflict and post conflict. It made the individuals more real; I felt compassion for them."

"I thought it was very fair the way it showed how life was so hard for the average RUC person."

A person who identifies as Catholic said: "I think the RUC tried to do good however it was all Protestant and unjust."

One person said of the performance: "Provided a human story to a demonised force."

"The play helped to highlight changes in people's view (the young and old policeman) and the disconnect between the two, and how both generations need to empathise with one another."

"It was the first major artistic representation I've seen of the RUC; gives a human side to the stories I've heard."

 

culturlann

Cultúrlann -  Derry/Londonderry

A self-identified republican defined his or her perception of the RUC prior to the performance as: "A corrupt sectarian force." He/she went on to say of the performance: "The RUC were combatants in the conflict who were awarded medals and received a monetary payoff. The play portrayed this but did not reflect how this impacted on the nationalist/republican community who are continuing to be vilified for their past actions."

"It's made me think about the human perspective."

"Saw a human side for first time."

"Good to see viewpoint of others."

A Donegal Catholic-raised viewer said of the N.I. police force: "Over the years I have met various officers who are just like us."

"Really helped me to get inside the heads of RUC members."

A viewer who identified as Catholic said of the RUC: "They did a policing service--but looked after their own first and foremost."

Another Catholic viewer said that the PSNI is "more lenient" than the RUC was, who he/she described as "anti-Catholic." The viewer said of the play: "It was really honest and I really enjoyed it. Many thanks."

A viewer who identified as republican said: "Everyone has a story, regardless of their background.

A Catholic viewer said Crows on the Wire was "sensitive" and "challenging" and "allowed you to see the other side of the story," but concluded that he/she "would need much more exploration of [the police force's] performance as a force" to change his/her negative view of the RUC, which he/she described as "old fashioned, bigoted, violent, corrupt."

A Catholic republican viewer said Crows on the Wire changed his or her view of the RUC somewhat, after being "given a different, human perspective of people within the RUC." He/she went on to say that theatre as a medium "gives food for thought and leads people to their own conclusions rather than force a one-sided, historical viewpoint."

One viewer from a Catholic background said Crows on the Wire "makes you think."

A viewer who identified as Catholic said that his/her perception of the RUC didn't change after the performance: "They are and were doing a job."

"Theatre is a way to open dialogue. My experience tonight was on of catharsis. Very needed."

One viewer who was raised Catholic demonises the Northern Ireland police force. They described the RUC as "racist bigots who showed it every chance they got," and said that the PSNI "hide their racism and bigotry due to change in protocol."

A viewer who identified as Catholic and nationalist described theatre as positive because it "creates a safe space and allows a variety of viewpoints to be shown."

Another Catholic viewer said the RUC "weren't to be trusted." He/she said that Crows on the Wire "portrayed the human being wearing the uniform, whereas we only ever saw the uniform."

Another Catholic viewer said of the RUC: "They are human like everyone else with the same emotions and responses to the events and times they lived through...Events are coloured by experiences."

 

aleey arts theatre

Alley Arts Theatre - Strabane

From a republican viewer: “The RUC were merely an instrument to maintain the six counties, and as a result of the Agreement became redundant.”

“Gives an insight into the difficulties experienced!”

One Catholic viewer said his or her perception of the RUC was “that the RUC were all the same, part of the British establishment,” but after the performance realised “they weren’t all the same.”

A Catholic viewer said of the RUC: “We always felt confident if we needed their help.”

One viewer who identified as Irish nationalist and Catholic said the performance didn’t change his or her view of the Northern Ireland police force: “The RUC have gone but no matter what police force there may be, nothing can change the underlying fact that the six counties has failed and will continue to fail.”

One viewer said that theatre was an “effective medium to question my misconceptions and bias.”

“Sympathised with the fact that they had a very difficult job to do.”

“I found the story of lost friendship quite moving—it seemed to humanise the organisation in a way I’d not thought possible.”

“Overall it is important to address the issues surrounding the RUC, whether they be protestant or Catholic. It is important to teach current and future generations about the complexities of Northern Ireland and how we as a people need to work together.”

“Thought provoking, will stay in my mind for a while.”

 

 

old courthouse

Old Courthouse - Antrim

“Very thought provoking.”

One viewer from a Catholic community described the RUC as “harsh, bitter, sectarian.”

 

Workship3

 

Image from Schools' Engagement Programme

 

 

Old Courthouse (Schools) - Antrim

One student, who grew up in a nationalist community, claimed that the RUC “represented the protestant community.”

“They were anti-Catholics”

“A biased police force.”

The RUC existed to “protect Protestant communities.”

The RUC were “protectors from paramilitaries.”

 

Belfast

Stranmillis Theatre - Belfast

“Dealt with stereotypes in a nuanced way.”

“A very valuable insight into an untold story – the human impact of the policy changeover.”

“Portrayed human side of police – and not stereotypical view.”

“It provides a medium to exchange perceptions/ideas. It’s a way of seeing others’ opinions.”

“I have a much larger understanding of the human side and emotional side of events and reasoning for actions taken.”

 

spectrum centre

Spectrum Theatre - Belfast

“Made me think. But I wonder: Has anything changed other than the name?”

One Protestant said the RUC was a “much maligned force.”

“It roused some issues at the complex challenges of being a policeman.”

“Very powerful…Gave another perspective of the RUC and what they had to deal with.”

 

craigavon borough council

Civic and Conference Centre - Craigavon

A viewer from Denmark said: “The play gave me—as an outsider—a more holistic understanding of RUC officers than what I have studied at university. It helped me see more family issues and issues of sexual violence.”

“I really think that the performance was really accurate and does tell the truth.”

“I can see past the uniform now…there are people under it.”

“I have lived in N.I. for all of my life. I remember the IRA campaign in [the] 1980s. No one knows what this last campaign of terror has done to all of us health-wise. My husband had RUC protection due to his work. I knew the officers well. I have and did have several family members in [the] RUC and PSNI….I dorecognisetheir suffering. I heard [a] PSNI officer crying on [the] Nolan Show today.”

 

newry and mourne

Sean Hollywood Theatre - Newry

Seemed to have more to do with the varying perspectives of people from different generations rather than the actual change of policing in N.I.”

“The play seemed to be more of a commentary on a generation gap than an examination of the legacy of the RUC.”

One viewer from a nationalist background described the RUC as “bigoted, tired old organisation…sectarian, anti-Catholic,” but after the performance said: “I suppose you have to understand the human stories on both sides of the conflict.”

 

strule

 

Strule Arts Centre - Omagh 

"The range of topics covered were diverse and added to the performance to reinforce that RUC officers have plenty of difficulties to face outside their work life on top of the constant threats."

"It was good to see their resentment at being forced to change or retire portrayed in such a candid, human way. One hadn't really appreciated or thought about what that meant for many 'old hands'."

"[Crows on the Wire] was a good way to get across both sides."

 

coleraine borough

Riverside Theatre - Coleraine

 

“A good performance expressing a lot of what can’t be said in another forum.”

 

“I felt the actors portrayed their characters very effectively. They made it believable—I lived through the troubles as a student in Belfast. I believe the way forward is through peace and reconciliation.”

 

“[Crows on the Wire] definitely highlighted the complex nature of relationships within the current police force and also the difficulty in finding a way forward.”

 

“I do feel that the RUC men and women still have stories to tell as do their wives and children. Please don’t ignore those stories in the future. The men who policed the troubles are aging—their stories need recorded now before they are gone forever.”

 

“One performance doesn’t change the past.”

 

an granian

An Grianan Theatre – Letterkenny

 

“Extraordinary incidents (e.g. Jack’s)—Descriptions of some of the horrors of policing—horrors that occur all over the world. And, perhaps, that’s something we forget when we think of the RUC? Do we think the same of the PSNI?”

 

“I found [Crows on the Wire] cleverly showed the gap between the police fraternity and their families. From soldiers and police I know, I know this to be a widespread phenomenon, not confined to Northern Ireland.”

 

 

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