taking our culture forward

New Manx play published online

Mon, 18 Oct 2021

A new play about Manx history and tradition by Annie Kissack has just been published online.

The In-Between Times’ is set in 1860s Douglas and explores the place of Manx May traditions in the face of the press for ‘progress’ amongst the town’s Victorian elite.

Annie received the Culture Vannin commission to write a play around the traditions of Boaldyn back at the start of the year and the play was written relatively quickly, once she found the key to imagining herself into that era.

Annie Kissack says:

“When I am writing, I find it helpful to first have a strong visual picture of the era and setting. I had already decided on the 1860s because there was some evidence of May traditions still being maintained then, even close to the towns. In a Douglas house of the era, now belonging to family members, but once to earlier generations of my English grandfather’s family, I knew I’d found my setting. And I had a photograph album from this same family, with photos dating in some cases back to the 1860s. They were, unlike my Manx ancestors, well off and I wondered about their lives. These relatives didn’t actually settle in Douglas till the 1890s, but I’d often speculated about when they began to consider themselves Manx. Some never did, but there was nobody more Manx in outlook, than their great-grandaughter, my mother, who was in some ways, the model for my lead character, Kate.”

Part of the Culture Vannin commission was to encourage the Island’s other creative writers to investigate Manx themes, as well as for theatre groups to consider staging the play themselves in the future. For this reason, the play is now freely available to read and use, via the Culture Vannin website (here).

At first glance the plot might seem to be one of conflict, between the Manx traditional beliefs around the crosh cuirn and primroses to protect against witchcraft on 30 April, and a modern Victorian Douglas of commerce and ‘rationality,’ but things are never that simple.

At the centre of the play is Kate Corrin, a Ballaugh woman married up into prosperous Douglas society. When the end of April comes around she is forced to look out at the Oie Voaldyn fires burning on Douglas head from within her wealthy home, wondering at the joy and wonder that was once in her life but which responsibility and respectability has driven out. A whirlwind of ridiculous protest against such ‘pagan’ practices rushes through her home in the shape of the campaigner, Louisa Stephenson, but leaves Kate unaffected other than leaving her along to explore the meaning of a shared Manx country upbringing with their maid, Alice.

The play shifts forward two years, when death has turned Kate’s fortunes, leaving her wondering what has been lost, and what should be held onto in the shifting seas of change.

The closing speech of Kate, alone on the stage, clutching her primroses on the evening before 1 May, leaves us in a state of raptured wonder:

“The winter is nearly past and with it, its cruelties, its cold. Burnt away to a stubble. Its secrets too are lost and the strange impulses of the heart. To what will we awake?”

The play was recently premiere at the Erin Arts Centre as the centre-piece of the sell-out night of entertainment, ‘At the Season’s Edge.’

The play, and the event, are the creations of the endlessly creative poet, musician and Manx speaker, Annie Kissack. Though many will know her poetry, particularly through her time as Manx Bard, this is her first play, only brought about at the prompt of Culture Vannin.

James Franklin of Culture Vannin says:

“Annie is a unique talent, in being not only deeply steeped in the traditions and culture of the Isle of Man, but also in being an extremely gifted and brilliant writer. Writers like Annie come around very rarely and everything they do will be of benefit to the culture of the Isle of Man.”

Annie Kissack says:

“This has been such an exciting project and personally, very rewarding. I have been encouraged by the enthusiasm and amazing talents of the small group of outstanding actors of Tholtan Theatricals, and do hope to be able to call upon them and maybe others, in further productions over the coming years.”

The play is now freely available to read and use, via the Culture Vannin website:

The In-Between Times by Annie Kissack