Eileen Pollock Topics List

Eileen Pollock Topics List  taken from her interview with Susan Croft, June 2007, recorded by Arlan Harris.
Video and audio extracts edited by Jessica Higgs.

Personal background, political context
Growing up in Belfast
Parents – grandfather ran an off-licence and pub
Father policeman in RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) – dilemmas and contradiction of being a Catholic in the RUC
Mother – Kathryn Hepburn to his Errol Flynn
Living in Waterworks, Antrim Road before it became entrenched Republican
Convent grammar school late 1950s to mid 60s

Discussion of history and inheritance absorbed within family
Ref: Playing in Katherine, Mother of All the Behans
Petit bourgeois background, family values

School, a year off in Spain and its impact
Impact of Miss Lynch, maths teacher, passion about her subject
Ref: Lusty Albert’s Timely Passion
Teacher reads Lorca in Spanish – led to EP studying Spanish at Queen’s University, Belfast
Aged 17 going to Spain as a companion, then au pair
Catholicism, losing her faith
Getting an English accent from teaching phonetics

University and London fringe
Studying Spanish and French
Joining Dram Soc
Theatre influences: Jimmy Ellis and James Green – actors they would see
Long Day’s Journey at Lyric
Careers guidance leads her away from Drama study and translation
Technical translation course in London
Pub theatres like King’s Head, Bush and The Kindred were all
Starting then (early 70’s)
Acting ASM at Bush
Belt and Braces play in Man Friday
Shows at Bush: Dracula with Jack Shepherd, Alun Armstrong
City Sugar by Stephen Poliakoff, also a South African piece
Charles Marowitz at Open Space
First stage job onstage opposite Tamara Hinchco at Bush, touring The Collector (John Fowles)

Belt and Braces (B&B)
Belt and Braces / 7:84 – Man Friday and Ramsay MacDonald: the Last Ten Days. Taken on because they thought her as a Northern Protestant –  ‘an interesting element to have’
Company structure – at time of England Expects – EP’s job to find a
company base- church in Gospel Oak
Company members: Gavin Richards, Jenny Barnett, Paul Kessle,
Tony Haynes (Musical Director), Gillian Hanna, John Fisk who later became Musical Director (Tony left to join Grand Union Canal), Maggie Steed,
Noreen Kershaw, Jeannie Crowther, Jimmy Bywater
1975- Weight
Writing of the shows
The company

Lack of documentation –scripts supposed to be supplied to British Museum but often not done because of poverty and changes made

Belt &Braces cont.
Arts Council(ACGB) supported
Company on Equity minimum of £18 per week
Struggle for more money to improve quality
ACGB recognition of the cultural service of performing in working men’s clubs, prisons, community centres
B&B’s aesthetic and approach. Intrinsic local relevance
Ref to CAST’s work (Cartoon Archetypal Slogan Theatre)
Class as central issue
Company’s class make up
Company discussions over responsibility for children and politics of wearing make up
‘Melinda in Chains’ – her performance
A Day in the Life of the World – play on globalisation and global politics
Shows she wasn’t in:
Do Not Go Gentle
Mrs Colly Pepper – played by Jeannie Crowther

Accidental Death of an Anarchist. EP the only one woman in the cast – feminist conscience- influence on script
Five good women and true – Maggie Steed, Jeannie Crowther,
Jenny Barnett, Noreen Kershaw, Eileen Pollock
Their roles when not in show
Decision to do a women’s show
Position of women in company (theatre and society at time)
Women not seen as movers and shakers
Women asked to play male roles because of lack of parts for women – women play male builders not female
To tell the story of global capitalism they’d hire in extra men
Male threat at women in the company getting together
Relationship of B&B women to women’s movement / women’s theatre movement

Formation of Bloomers with Noreen Kershaw, Eve Bland
Bloomers 1 on Women and Work (home, workplace, babies, women’s invisible labour).
Audience response, feedback and their stories

John Fisk and Paul Kessle in Sweden – company Kisslowski and Fisk
Alternative theatre in Sweden
The Tent Project – large-scale work for trade unionists etc. the history of the Swedish working class 1800-1945. Polly’s detailed recollections

Bloomers 2- Women and Madness
Bloomers 3- Women and Crime for criminology conference
Thatcher as criminal
Women’s Festival of Theatre, Half Moon
Polly Toynbee questioning the need for 18 women’s theatre companies – the response of the companies – a letter to The Guardian: why 18 groups of women needed to make work, Toynbee’s failure to talk to them

Beryl and the Perils and Bloomers
Noreen and Eve in Trafford Tanzi at the Mermaid

EP sets up Camouflage with Christine Ellerbeck

Parfett Street squats, occupied by Half Moon theatre actors and local activists, later licensed by the GLC and became a co-op, refused the right to buy on political grounds

Writing whole plays for Camouflage, CE contributes bits
Camouflage as vindication of her belief that women can talk about the Big ‘male’ issues like militarism, nuclear power
The 1980 Spit and Polish Girly Show
Designer: Rowanda – girly boiler suits
MADness – mutually assured destruction, keeping the peace (and giving the war to everyone else)
Lusty Albert’s Timely Passion about Einstein
Vagaries of touring, ACE funding, employing incompetent administrators
Strewth – written, not done, post-nuclear holocaust, set in bunkers and sewers, taking up 2 characters from Lusty Albert – also examining significance of Royal family

Other Work
Brian Friel’s Northern Irish version of Three Sisters
Trevor Griffiths’ Comedians done by women at Liverpool, directed Kate Rowlands. Cast included: Pauline Daniels, Jenny Lecoat, Christine Moore, Ann Mitchell
Cast in Bread (TV) as Lilo Lill for five years
Fight Like Tigers  during Miners’ strike by Jonathan Neale
Play based on life of Mother Jones, US union organiser,
Started by Marie Jones, writer, later known for Stones in his Pockets, Women on the Verge of HRT
Women’s theatre happened later in Belfast
Local women fed up with companies bring Irish actresses over from England. Marie Jones’s theatre – bringing the two communities together
Cf Brian Friel’s Translations Hampstead Theatre c1980 had brought her
back into the theatre
Darrah Cloud’s The Stick Wife for Charabanc

Charabanc split after 10 years
Formed by Marie Jones with Pam Brighton i.e. Dublin / Belfast Joint
EP as mayor’s wife in Marie Jone’s Ireland-set version of The Government Inspector

Taboo and Galway
Druid Theatre – Billy Roche’s Poor Beast in the Rain
Formation of Taboo, women’s company
First production Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi
All women version Waiting for Godot directed by Nora Connolly (banned by Beckett estate)

Dubbeljoint cont.
EP in Women on the Verge of HRT(Marie Jones)
Daniel O’Donnell fans, Irish Country &Western singer

Kathleen, Mother of All the Behans
Brian Behan’s play, EP one-woman show, directed by Pam Brighton
EP’s collection of old ladies – Mother Jones, her grandmother, Kathleen, Grandma Moses

New projects and legacy
Writing On the Cut, a two-hander about women working on the canals in WW2
Doing Bloomsday with Nora Connolly
Legacy of women’s theatre groups

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