Inis Nua’s mission is to produce contemporary, provocative plays from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales which reflect those cultures’ new identities in today’s world. Inis Nua also seeks to cultivate and produce contemporary, provocative work from American playwrights who deal with the Irish-American, Welsh-American, Scottish-American and Anglo-American experiences.
To date, Inis Nua has produced one world premiere, twelve American premieres and twelve Philadelphia premieres. Our 2016-2017 season offers two American premieres. Inis Nua Theatre Company has been the recipient of grants from the William Penn Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, the Independence Foundation, the Fels Fund, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and the Charlotte Cushman Foundation. Inis Nua Theatre has also had seven playwrights visit during production of their shows.
Myths and dreams will swirl through the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake (302 South Hicks Street) in October as Inis Nua presents Lizzie Nunnery’s The Swallowing Dark. From England, this drama deals with the bureaucratic fragility of asylum for one family, but the nature of truth itself commands center stage. As The Independent said, “Can the truth ever be turned into a clear, consistent story? That’s one of the troubling questions that underlie The Swallowing Dark, Lizzie Nunnery’s powerfully suggestive new play.”
“Leave to remain” is the inadvertently ironic term for the status of being allowed residency in the UK (for both asylum seekers and general immigrants). It is not permanent, though, and can come up for review. Liverpool has been home to Canaan and his young son for 5 years after fleeing Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime in Zimbabwe. They could now lose asylum as the choices Canaan made to stay alive are thrown up into the harsh light of interrogation. Tasked with the bureaucratic load of renewal paperwork, new caseworker Martha begins to piece together Canaan’s political activities in Africa and finds hints that he may have been not just victim but also perpetrator of violence in his efforts to navigate Zimbabwe’s horrific no-win political landscape. Was he an activist in the Movement for Democratic Change? Or was he a government CIO agent tracking and torturing dissidents? What do we expect to hear from a man trying to save his own life?
As she sits as judge and jury of Canaan’s reality, Martha struggles with a damning truth within her own family, her brother’s seeming involvement in a terrible crime. This professional’s mandate to find and invest in the truth becomes a shackle as she confronts truth’s ever-shifting form. Government reports cannot encompass the complexity of a refugee’s life or journey to safety, but the magical stories of Zimbabwe that infuse The Swallowing Dark hint at a truth just out of reach.
Inis Nua’s Literary Manager and Associate Director Claire Moyer is directing The Swallowing Dark and was drawn to the playwright’s style: “The Swallowing Dark stood out to me as Nunnery’s writing is shaped by poetry, folklore and the vague images at the edges of our memory—but it’s simultaneously tackling a very modern and relevant political issue.” In curating our Reading Series: Immigration Stories last season, Claire found that the changing face of Britain is increasingly reflected in new work from the U.K. Some playwrights use immigration in a matter of fact or humorous way, as Alan Harris does in our winter offering Love, Lies and Taxidermy. Lizzie Nunnery, however, is taking dead aim at the contradictions and hypocrisy of immigration, asylum and the reality of refugee admissions.
The Swallowing Dark stars Walter DeShields (Co-Founder and Associate Artistic Director of Theatre in the X) and Jessica Johnson (Gumshoe [New Paradise Laboratories], The Legend of Georgia McBride [Arden Theatre Company]) and takes us from a dreary Liverpool office to the streets of Harare. Longtime Inis Nua collaborator Meghan Jones will handle the set design, and Avista Custom Theatrical Services provides the props. Sound design is by Elizabeth Atkinson with lighting design handled by Amanda Jensen—they both set the scene for Radiant Vermin. Swallow’s costume designer Natalia de la Tor is back for this production, as well as Inis Nua veteran technical director Joe Daniels (Leper + Chip). Another Inis Nua veteran, Lauren Tracy, is back as production manager with newcomer Alex Donnelly as stage manager.
The Swallowing Dark opens on Friday, October 6 at 8:00 pm, with previews on Wednesday, October 4 and Thursday, October 5 at 7:00 pm. The Swallowing Dark runs for a total of 15 performances, through October 22, 2017. All shows are at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 302 South Hicks Street. South Hicks Street runs along the side of The Drake apartment building at 1512 Spruce Street.
Tickets are on sale for $25-$35 by calling (215) 454-9776 or visiting inisnuatheatre.org.