Kirsty Patrick Ward directs Strike!, Tracy Ryan’s extraordinary account of the Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strike which took place in Dublin from 1984 to 1987.
This action would play a pivotal role in world history with Ireland becoming the first Western European state to ban South African imports and ultimately leading to the fall of the apartheid regime.
Full of passion and humour, Strike! is the true story of the hardships and personal sacrifices, the friendships and camaraderie these extraordinary young shop workers experienced as they stood up for what they believed in. As their understanding of the suffering under apartheid in South Africa and the politics within their own Government deepened, they began a journey that would change their lives, and Ireland, forever.
The full cast is Jessica Regan (Karen), Anne O’Riordan (Liz), Sheila Moylette (Alma), Aoife Boyle (Sandra), Adam Isla O’Brien (Tommy), Orla Scally (Michelle), Doireann May White (Vonnie), Chloe O’Reilly (Mary), Ciara Andrea Murphy (Cathryn), Charlotte Duffy (Theresa), Ciana Howlin (Sinead), Paul Carroll (Paul/Brendan) and Mensah Bediako (Nimrod).
You’re directing Strike! at Southwark Playhouse, what can you tell us about the play?
It tells the true story of one of the longest but least well known strikes in recent history – that of the Dunnes Store Strikers in Dublin. These nine young women and one young man made the decision to go on strike in July 1984. This moment changed their lives forever, and ended up having far greater ramifications than they could ever have imagined.
In meeting Nimrod Sejake, a South African in exile for his anti-apartheid activism, their eyes are opened to the brutal realities of life in South Africa at the time. They discover the power of allyship, protest and solidarity – with these mighty tools, they will help to change history.
What was it about Tracy Ryan’s script that made you want to be part of this project?
I felt it was a phenomenal story that had been told with incredible wit, insight and humanity. The real life events of this strike are fascinating, and having researched them and been fortunate enough to speak with some of the strikers involved, I’m even more in awe of how Tracy has captured their stories and voices so stunningly.
So often in drama we focus solely on one protagonist’s struggle, but Tracy’s play explores and celebrates just what can be achieved when people come together to act. It’s bold, it’s epic, it takes you on a journey that truly beggars belief and is sure to inspire.
How much of the true story were you already aware of and how much did you have to research?
I had actually heard of the strike before through my sister Lucy Patrick Ward, as she had heard striker Karen Gearon on The Moth podcast back in 2014.
We were both blown away by Karen’s story, so when the script was sent to me, I couldn’t wait to read it. Little did I know just how much more there was to learn about this strike, and how it shaped the lives of so many.
Myself, the cast and the whole the creative team have done a huge amount of research on the strike, as well as the abhorrent apartheid regime in South Africa.
What surprised you the most about the story?
Well I won’t reveal any spoilers, but let’s just say that some of the people the strikers end up meeting are simply incredible. Also, what the strikers sacrificed in order to fight for what was right, and stand in solidarity with the Anti-apartheid movement, is truly moving.
It’s a story of friendship, empathy, activism and dogged determination. What these young people achieved with the guidance of Nimrod and the support of their friends and families, is deeply affecting and feels terrifyingly relevant.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you as director?
This story is epic! Seriously, I mean it’s absolutely huge, and spans over many different times and locations, involving loads of great characters.
That in itself is a big challenge, but I’m also committed to telling this story in a way that feels pertinent, arresting and truly theatrical, as it’s a play and not a documentary. I’m loving collaborating with Movement Director Ira Mandela Siobhan, and are cast are utterly brilliant.
We’re all working our socks off to do justice to this remarkable story, and we hope it will strike a chord with our audiences.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Strike!?
If you want to see a show that’s going to take you on an epic journey, a show that will move and inspire you, and remind you of what incredible things can be achieved when people come together – then book for Strike!
We promise spectacular 80’s fashion, a killer soundtrack, but most importantly, a story of bravery and solidarity that you will never forget.
With so many people feeling they have no choice but to strike in order to be heard, come and find out more about the greatest strike you’ve never heard of.