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Sam Thompson Biography

(1916–65), Over the Bridge, Mixed Marriage, The Evangelist, Cemented with Love

belfast theatre ulster bridge


Irish playwright, born in Belfast; he was a tradesman and trade unionist who turned to writing during the 1950s. His first plays were written for radio and originate in his concern for the poverty and violence of the society to which he belonged. Thompson's significance is assured by his play Over the Bridge (1960), portraying sectarian prejudice in Belfast and the inevitability of its violent consequences. Considered controversial, the play was withdrawn by the Ulster Group Theatre before production; Thompson had to form his own theatre company and wait three years before it was performed at the Empire Theatre in Belfast. In the fifty years that had elapsed since St John Ervine's Mixed Marriage (1911) had touched upon the nerve of factional hatred, Thompson was the only playwright who had dared to present Ulster's sectarian problems on stage. Set in the Belfast shipyards, and against a background of an IRA bombing, it concerns the victimization of a Catholic worker and the efforts of his union representative, who is a Protestant, to protect him. As well as being historically significant, Over the Bridge also provided a dramatic precedent for playwrights such as John Boyd and Graham Reid, who were to portray the same problems. Thompson's only other full-length plays to be produced were The Evangelist (1961) and Cemented with Love (1964).

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