Two women, the Catholic Church and two Irishmen in Realtine/Noreen by Janet Behan

Writer and actor Janet Behan, author of the celebrated biographical Brendan at the Chelsea brings her funny and poignant double bill, Realtine/Noreen to Tristan Bates Theatre,  23-27 August 23 – 27, as part of Camden Fringe.

Realtine/Noreen tells the stories of two very different women, both scarred from a young age by incarceration in different Catholic institution. Their stories illustrate the emotionally crippling effect on women of finding themselves at the mercy of the Catholic Church.

Janet said: “The show is two stories basically. They are both women who have suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church in different ways. The first one is quite light and the second one is not so light. It is 45 minutes. You will laugh, you will cry. It will be an interesting evening and you will have plenty of time to go to the pub afterwards.”

In Realtine, our heroine joins a creative writing class but something has prevented her from writing a single word. Today the dam has burst and her story pours out. The story of a thirteen year old forced to enter the Poor Clare – a closed order of nuns.

Noreen, an immigrant, rails against daughter, husband and neighbours for ruining her life; beneath the rage she nurses a broken heart, pining for the baby that was stolen from her many years ago.

Janet, who plays both women, said: “My father, author Brian Behan, was one of many thousands who suffered incarceration and abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church. The victims of such abuse are now known to be so numerous that it is possible for us to lose sight of them as individuals. It’s my hope that these two plays will go some way to helping us see the human cost behind the numbers.”

Director Jessica Higgs says: “Outrage explodes from the burning heart of these insightful, clever thumbnail portraits. They are great companion pieces and, fanned with compassion and humour, allow us into the very particular life experiences of their heroines.”

The niece of celebrated playwright Brendan Behan, Janet’s play, Brendan at the Chelsea, was first produced at the newly rebuilt Lyric Theatre, Belfast in 2011. Starring Adrian Dunbar, this sell-out production toured to New York, Belfast, Dublin and Derry in 2013.

Janet said: “Brendan at the Chelsea was my first outing as a writer. I was an actress and worked for 40 years. Then I had children and couldn’t get out of the house. So I thought what work could I do and started writing. This is my first time at Camden Fringe and first time back on stage in I don’t know how many years. So this is quite a challenge.

“My father, who is dead now, went to Artane Industrial School… and it was accepted by the tribunal that he must have been abused if he had gone to Artane.

“That stuck in my head, about what had happened to women, not just at the hands of the Catholic Church but at the hands of a Catholic country. The secrecy about sex, which is very pertinent to both these plays. The way they were sent to England for an abortion or sent to a mother and baby home. The babies were taken away from them and far, far worse.”

Director Jessica’s work was last seen at the Tristan Bates in November 2015 when she directed Yang May Ooi’s acclaimed Bound Feet Blues.

Other directing work includes: Lady Grey (Will Eno/Soho Theatre); Four Portraits – of Mothers (Wesker/Bridewell Theatre); Landscape & Mountain Language (Pinter/Ovalhouse); My Amulet (Leah Thorn/Camden Jewish Musuem); Smudge (Alex Bulmer/Ovalhouse) and Pig Tales (Julie McNamara/Edinburgh Theatre Workshop, national & international tours).

Jessica is also a voice coach and co- founder of Unfinished Histories, the influential website and archive documenting the history of alternative theatre, 1968-88.

Realtine/Noreen is presented as part of Camden Fringe 2016, produced by STEPASIDE in association with Shoreham Wordfest at Tristan Bates Theatre.

Reviews for Brendan at Chelsea:

“A must,” NY Times
“Beautifully written,” British Theatre Guide
“Behan’s script is rich and elegant – a must see,” Foreign Press Association.

Video interview (above) by Claire Rowden. Photograph (below) by Shay Rowan.

For more details and tickets visit

You may also be interested in:

Big Shot The Musical, until Saturday 20 August at London Irish Centre.

God’s Little Angels, an Irish comedy musical, 18-20 August at London Irish Centre.

The Irish Comedy Improv Show, 19-20 London Irish Centre.

Captive Hearts, 22-24 August, Etcetera Theatre.

Janet Behan Camden Fringe



About Camden Fringe Voyeur

Previews, reviews, news and interviews all from The Camden Fringe
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