The Invention (Vote! Vote! Vote!)
© By Daragh Carville
After the execution of Henry Joy McCracken, friends and family try desperately to revive him by making use of a fantastic new scientific invention ...
[HENRY JOY McCRACKEN looks around him, sees the audience
watching him. Recognises them. He breathes]
McCracken Citizens of Belfast.
[He draws his feet down off the table onto the floor, places his weight on them, experimentally. They will take his weight. He stands. He touches his neck, raw from the rope]
I am alive. [A moment]
Oh dear God no. I am alive.
[He looks out again at the audience. Confusion in his eyes. It is as
if he is in shock]
Citizens of Belfast.
What a vision I have had. Two hundred years or more from my day, vouchsafed to me in a vision. I saw Belfast alive before my eyes. Divided as never before.
The skill and ingenuity of the shipbuilders had gone into the constructions of great walls of iron. Marvelous feats of engineering they were, wonders to behold, running right through the town, bisecting whole streets. Keeping the people apart. Keeping the poor of one area away from the poor of another. Keeping the Papists from the Protestants. To stop them killing other. Great sheets of metal, welded, riveted together. Such skill. Such craftsmanship. Such great builders we always were.
If only Tone could have seen it. He loved that about us. The invention of this place. That day we took him down to the quay to see the merchant ships unloading. The light in his eyes. To see all that invention, all that commerce. A great port. The call of the gulls, the salt smell in the air. All the business, the busy-ness of the place. The tang of possibility.
To plant a true democracy in the land, that was what we wanted. To nurture a brotherhood of affection between Catholic and Protestant.
The tang of possibility. What became of it? What was it all for?
The Invention was Carville’s contribution to Vote! Vote! Vote!, a theatre event organised by Tinderbox Theatre Company to coincide with the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections. A range of Northern Irish writers including Glenn Patterson, Christina Reid and Tim Loane, were commissioned to write short plays reflecting their responses to the election.
This piece was a tribute to Stewart Parker’s “Northern Star"and inspired by a passing mention in a biography of Mary Ann McCracken, which imagines Henry Joy McCracken brought back to life, Frankenstein-style, but having been granted a vision of the future of his native city.
The Assembly Rooms, Belfast
Produced by Tinderbox Theatre Company, November 2003, Belfast.
‘An offbeat, though entertaining and insightful, attempt to articulate alternative perspectives on the election was a production by the Belfast-based theatre company Tinderbox. Vote! Vote! Vote! consisted of read vignettes by leading Northern Ireland writers. It played in Belfast, Newry and Derry in the days before the election and was followed each evening by an ‘Alternative Hustings’. Tinderbox billed the event thus: ‘Suitable for citizens, first time voters, the disenfranchised, the disillusioned, major, minor and medium parties and politicians!’ Particularly striking was a balcony monologue by Ian McElhinney, posing as the United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken returned from the grave and looking down over his native and now clearly divided Belfast, bemoaning the loss of the civic spirit by which the United Irishmen had been motivated.’ - Robin Wilson and Liz Fawsett ‘The Media Election - Coverage of the Northern Ireland Assembly poll’.