Presented in partnership with the EastSide Arts Festival, the play has been written by and stars local actor Stephen Beggs, who found his inspiration very close to home:
“My father-in-law is called Clark Groves and ‘The King of East Belfast’ is based on the true life story of his grandfather, also called Clark Groves.
Before gambling was made legal in Northern Ireland, Clark Sr. was a legendary East Belfast bookmaker who strived to be both a successful bookie and a good man. Through his generosity to local people from what he called ‘this deadly business’, it was said that Clark Sr. ‘married and buried them on the Newtownards Road’.
Clark Sr.’s funeral in 1957 was one of the biggest seen before or since in Dundonald Cemetery as hundreds of people came out to pay their respects and to thank him for his help.
I’ve been really fascinated by the stories I have heard about Clark Sr. from my family for many years and I’m looking forward to breathing life into a forgotten period in the history of East Belfast.”
‘The King of East Belfast’ is being directed by Paula McFetridge from Kabosh, who explains some of the creative thinking behind the show:
“At Kabosh we are always interested in looking at local politics and history from a human perspective and that is why we were so excited when Stephen told us about the story of Clark Groves Sr.. As well as being a larger than life character himself, Clark’s story also gives us a unique insight into how society operated back in 1940’s East Belfast.
We have been collaborating closely with Stephen for the past ten months to bring ‘The King of East Belfast’ to audiences. Site specific work is very important to us and staging the show in the Connswater Shopping Centre – the site of the former Belfast Ropeworks, where many of Clark’s customers would have worked – gives it a special resonance.”
‘The King of East Belfast’ will be a live, socially distanced performance with a maximum audience of 22 people per show. Measures which will be available to ensure audience and performer safety will include masks, sanitiser, allocated seating, restricted numbers and regulation spacing.
Welcoming Kabosh’s return to live performance, Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Drama and Dance Officer from Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) said:
“‘The King of East Belfast’ promises to be a treat and a triumph from one of our most accomplished and versatile theatre artists, Stephen Beggs, with the help of the hugely experienced and successful Kabosh. Stephen has been working on this project through ACNI support for several years, interrogating and bringing to life characters, dilemmas and worlds from his own family history. The shared innovation and humanity of Stephen and Kabosh will bring us something very special here – elevating and celebrating the everyday and the local, and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Stephen is a vector for the creativity and catharsis of live performance; he has thrilled, moved and astounded audiences for decades. We have waited a long time to get back to live performance, and I can think of no artist I would rather return us there than Stephen Beggs, and no better company than the ever-inventive Kabosh. We wish them all the best with the production.”
The 45-minute show will be performed in a unit at Connswater Shopping Centre at 8pm from 7-9 and 12-16 August, and 2.30pm matinees on 12 and 15 August 2020, as part of the EastSide Arts Festival. There will be post-show discussions after performances on 8, 12 (matinee) and 15 (evening show).