After hitting international headlines for more than its four star reviews The Conquest of Happiness, is homeward bound to Belfast for two closing shows after touring Derry~Londonderry, Mostar, Sarajevo and Ljubljana throughout September and October.
A co-production between three theatre companies – Prime Cut Productions Northern Ireland, East West Centar Bosnia-Herzegovina and Mladinsko Theatre Slovenia – The Conquest of Happiness opened to phenomenal reviews as part of the UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations in September. Receiving four stars from the Financial Times, The Independent and Belfast Telegraph, it was described as the “theatre event of 2013” by a senior BBC correspondent. This epic show surrounds the audience with a variety of military vehicles, immersing them in the performance and making them part of it as it plays out in breathtaking style some of the worst atrocities of the 20th and 21st centuries. Scenes included are from Bloody Sunday, the Holocaust, Cambodia’s Killing Fields, Pinochet’s Chile, 9/11 and the Siege of Sarajevo.
Following its highly acclaimed World Premiere in Derry~Londonderry the cast and crew experienced what can only be described as a highly ironic and unexpected event when when en route to Mostar to open Festival MESS, (Bosnia’s leading arts festival) four of the creative team were arrested at the George Best Belfast City Airport. A costume jacket purchased from a vintage store was found to have 12 live bullets sewn into its lining.The four, which included co-director Emma Jordan from Belfast’s Prime Cut Productions, were released without charge and although shaken, the irony of the situation did not pass them by – The Conquest of Happiness is inspired by the work of world renowned pacifist, the late British Philosopher Bertrand Russell. A strong anti-war message is at the heart of the project and while this daring and epic show centres on a dynamic combination of first hand accounts and dramatisations of some of recent history’s most horrific acts of war, its focus is humanities capacity for endurance, love and generosity in even the most desperate circumstances.
The first show at the MESS Festival received a resounding standing ovation from the audience who watched the performance staged under Mostar Bridge infamously bombed during the Bosnian war and rebuilt as a symbol of unity and beauty. Unfortunately, the following night the company received a NATO weather warning and the second and final performance in Mostar was cancelled due to one of worst thunder and lighting storms in recent history.
Director Emma Jordan commented:
“We couldn’t believe it when the weather turned and we were contacted by NATO and told that we couldn’t perform the second night in Mostar. Some of the performance takes place on purpose-built watchtowers and we were ordered not to perform due to the high risk around the safety of the actors. We sat in a nearby restaurant watching the storm and seeing some of the set float away down the river not quite believing what was happening!”
The show then moved to Sarajevo where it received a Special Mention by the Jury of the MESS Festival and subsequently sold out in Ljubljana. Now the team are preparing for their closing performances in Belfast. Jordan added:
“We cannot wait to perform those closing nights in the T13 hanger in the Titanic Quarter as part of the Belfast Festival. The whole process of developing the show over the past four years has been indescribable and twinned with some of the mad situations we have found ourselves in makes it an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. We look forward to giving audiences the finest performances on the closing nights and leaving them with a show that they will never forget.”
The Conquest of Happiness takes place on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 October in T13, Titanic Quarter, Belfast as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival At Queens. Warm clothing essential. Ponchos will be provided. Please do not bring umbrellas. Tickets £15 and £10 concession (plus booking fee). Contact the Box Office on 028 9097 1197 or visit www.belfastfestival.com.
The show contains strong language, scenes some people may find upsetting and is recommended for 12 yrs +.
For more information on the production visit www.conquestofhappiness.com