Making reference to Luce Irigaray’s definitions of mimesis and mimicry, and the ways in which these concepts respectively reinforce and challenge the phallogocentric order, this article investigates the representation of the Troubles in the play Somewhere over the Balcony by Charabanc—a pioneering all-female theatre company which operated in Belfast in the 1980s and early 1990s. The article discusses the achievement of the company in the local context and offers a reading of Somewhere over the Balcony, Charabanc’s 1987 play which depicts the lives of underprivileged working-class Catholic women in the infamous Divis Flats in Belfast. Showing the protagonists’ struggle with the everyday reality of sectarianism in Northern Ireland, it celebrates female creativity and jouissance. The article argues that the characters challenge the masculinist order by means of mimicry. Irigaray defines this strategy as a deliberate assumption of prescribed female roles, which involves a playful attitude to “mimesis imposed”—in other words, to the programmed repetition of socially sanctioned patterns (This Sex 76). Mimicry, as well as other productive strategies help the female characters in the play to transform the balconies of their flats into an area of creativity and empowerment, which challenges binary thinking about the division into private and public space. Such a geopolitical reading of the play corresponds to the artistic agenda of the company, communicated by its very name. It also sheds light on Charabanc’s attempt to create a more inclusive and varied cultural space that would reach beyond gender, sectarian, and class divides in Northern Ireland.
Northern Irish drama, Charabanc, Luce Irigaray, mimicry, mimesis, Somewhere over the Balcony
Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. Print.
Deane, Seamus. General Introduction. Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. Vol. 1. Ed. Seamus Deane. Derry: Field Day, 1991. xix–xxvi. Print.
Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendall. Berkeley: U of California P, 1988. Print.
DiCenzo, Maria R. “Charabanc Theatre Company: Placing Women Center-Stage in Northern Ireland.” Theatre Ireland 45.2 (1993): 174–84. JSTOR. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
Foley, Imelda. The Girls in the Big Picture: Gender in Contemporary Ulster Theatre. Belfast: Blackstaff, 2003. Print.
Harris, Claudia W., ed. The Charabanc Company: Four Plays. Gerrards Cross: Smythe, 2006. Print.
Irigaray, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman. Trans. Gillian G. Gill. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. Print.
Irigaray, Luce. This Sex which Is Not One. Trans. Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. Print.
Jones, Marie. “Somewhere over the Balcony.” The Charabanc Company: Four Plays. Ed. Claudia W. Harris. Gerrards Cross: Smythe, 2006. 181–224. Print.
Kristeva, Julia. “Women’s Time (1981).” Feminism: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism. Ed. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Prince Herndl. New Brunswick: Rutgers, 1997. 855–79. Print.
Lojek, Helen. “Playing Politics with Belfast’s Charabanc Theatre Company.” Politics and Performance. Ed. John P. Harrington and Elizabeth J. Mitchell. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1999. 82–102. Print.
Martin, Carol. “Charabanc Theatre Company: ‘Quare’ Women ‘Sleggin’ and ‘Geggin’ the Standards of Northern Ireland by ‘Tappin’ the People.” TDR: The Drama Review 31.2 (1987): 89–99. JSTOR. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
McGrath, John. A Good Night Out: Popular Theatre: Audience, Class and Form. London: Methuen, 1982. Print.
McWhorter, Ladelle. “The Private Life of Birds: From a Restrictive to a General Economy of Reason.” Reading Bataille Now. Ed. Shannon Winnubust. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2007. 141–65. Print.
Methven, Eleanor, and Carol Moore. “Charabanc Theatre Company on Irish Women’s Theatres.” Feminist Stages: Interviews with Women in Contemporary British Theatre. Ed. Lizabeth Goodman and Jane de Gay. Amsterdam: Harwood, 1996. 278–82. Print.
Moloney, Ed. Voices from the Grave: Two Men’s War in Ireland. New York: Public Affairs, 2010. Print.
Owicki, Eleonor. “Rattle Away at Your Bin: Women, Community, and Bin Lids in Northern Irish Drama.” Theatre Symposium. The Prop’s The Thing: Stage Properties Reconsidered 18 (2010): 56–66. Project MUSE. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
Robinson, Hilary. Reading Art, Reading Irigaray: The Politics of Art by Women. London: Tauris, 2006. Print.