Frank McGuinness’ ‘The Factory Girls’ may be set in the 1980s but its themes are as relevant to today’s working world as ever.
The play, which comes to Galway’s Town Hall Theatre this week, directed by Caitriona McLaughlin, tells the story of five women facing the threat of redundancy, who stage a sit-in at their shirt factory in Co. Donegal. But, while the subject matter may be bleak, cast member Cathleen Bradley says there is plenty of humour to lighten the mood.
“There’s a lot of banter in the first half between the ladies and there’s a lot of humour throughout the show. You’re dealing with a crowd of ladies who are taking on the factory and the union, so there’s a bit of sadness too. You find out more about them in the second half, more about their stories and lives and what they’ve went through,” she explains.
Chatting with Setlist while on tour in Sligo, the Donegal woman, who plays Rebecca in the drama, says the cast were surprised to discover that different parts of the play resonated with different audiences.
“You could be up in Colraine or Letterkenny and the humour is going to be very different because it’s Northern humour and then when we played it in Dun Laoghaire, they got things that other audiences didn’t get. Certain audiences seem to pick up different things and laugh at different points,” she says.
Cathleen recalls that a performance in Derry was “inundated” with former factory workers eager to revisit the humour of the time and, while audiences have been predominantly female, she feels there is something for everyone to recognise.
“I think a lot of people will relate to it because there are a lot of places closing down with the recession and this is set in the 1980s and there was a recession then also. Apart from the way we are dressed and certain points in the show, it could actually be set now,” she says.
Cathleen says she was drawn to ‘The Factory Girls’ by the strong female characters and reveals that she and her fellow actresses have forged a strong bond through the experience.
“When you’re on stage, you have to have a bond because we work with each other, but that bond is actually there naturally in this cast. We wouldn’t have all known each other but when we started working together, we started to get on and the banter started to happen off the stage so it’s easy to translate then on to the stage,” she says.
“It’s great that we get on because you can get some jobs where you don’t get on so well but the five of us, probably because we share a dressing room too, the banter is going all the time. It’s great!”
In addition to her own acting projects, Cathleen also works as a drama facilitator in Ballybofey with cross-community groups, as well as overseeing alcohol awareness programmes for schoolchildren.
“It’s a great way to get people to come out of their shells. It’s absolutely brilliant. If you go into the school at 9.30am and you’re tired and in a bad mood, you don’t be in a bad mood coming out because those kids are nuts! They’re so funny!”
While she admits that the hectic touring schedule can be “a wee bit tiring” for the cast at times, she enthuses about seeing the different areas of Ireland and says she is looking forward to returning to Galway, having previously visited the city with An Grianán’s production of ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’.
“The work I do with the kids is so intense that this seems like a break, I’m really enjoying it! It’s been a while since I was in Galway so it’s nice to be back, I like Galway. We’ve two nights up there so that means I can go shopping the second day!”
The Factory Girls comes to Town Hall Theatre on Tues 21 and Wed 22 May at 8pm. Tickets, priced at €20/€16, are available from 091-56977 or www.tht.ie.
To be in with a chance of winning one of two FREE pairs of tickets to the play, check out our giveaway at www.facebook.com/galwayindependent.