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  • Belfast Between The Wars


Northern Whig, Friday 14th October 1932




There was scarcely a vacant seat in the famous Abbey Theatre, Dublin, last evening, when “Workers,” the first full-length play by Thomas Carnduff, an unemployed Belfast shipyard worker, was presented for the first time on any stage by the Belfast Repertory Players.

It was given a most enthusiastic welcome, and at the fall of the final curtain there were repeated calls for author, to which Mr. Carnduff responded.


He told the audience that he had watched his play from the stalls, and it was the first time he had sat in the stalls of a theatre. It had been a very special moment in his life, and he was delighted at seeing his work staged with the traditions of the Abbey.

The play is in three acts, and whilst it shows obvious weakness in stage construction it is marked by natural, at times brilliant and often very witty, dialogue, and it displays admirable character delineation.

What Carnduff has done is to take a number of shipyard workers, some of them hard-drinking, hard-swearing, hard-up, and belligerent, and set them out before us. What lingers in our memory of them is their heroism, their kindness to one another, their understanding, their humanity. It was this that appealed to the playgoers.

Susan, the heroine of the play, has been badly treated by her husband, John Waddell. After repeated requests from her former lover, Bouman, she decided to go away. Then John is brought home an invalid, and she feels that her place is with him. That is the altruism of the woman, and there are heaps of examples of the altruism of the men, who work when there is work to be had, and are always anxious to help those who cannot find work.

There is philosophy to the play, there is irony, there is occasional bitterness about existing conditions, but the fundamental characteristics of it are its humanity and the author’s deep regard for the working men. He was given an extremely warm welcome when he thanked the audience and the cast.

The men in the play, Richard Hayward (Waddell), Rodney Malcolmson, C. E. Owens (bartender), J. R. Mageean, William Crean, Charles Fagan, and Dan Fitzpatrick, were extremely good, but the two women need to speak up, as much of their conversation was often lost.

The play will be repeated this and tomorrow evening, and a matinee tomorrow.

To find out more about Thomas Carnduff click here.


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