Defying Maintenance Mimesis: The Case of Somewhere over the Balcony by Charabanc Theatre Company
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Making reference to Luce Irigaray’s definitions of mimesis and mimicry, and the ways in which these concepts respectively reinforce and challenge the phallogocentric order, this article investigates the representation of the Troubles in the play Somewhere over the Balcony by Charabanc—a pioneering all-female theatre company which operated in Belfast in the 1980s and early 1990s. The article discusses the achievement of the company in the local context and offers a reading of Somewhere over the Balcony, Charabanc’s 1987 play which depicts the lives of underprivileged working-class Catholic women in the infamous Divis Flats in Belfast. Showing the protagonists’ struggle with the everyday reality of sectarianism in Northern Ireland, it celebrates female creativity and jouissance. The article argues that the characters challenge the masculinist order by means of mimicry. Irigaray defines this strategy as a deliberate assumption of prescribed female roles, which involves a playful attitude to “mimesis imposed”—in other words, to the programmed repetition of socially sanctioned patterns (This Sex 76). Mimicry, as well as other productive strategies help the female characters in the play to transform the balconies of their flats into an area of creativity and empowerment, which challenges binary thinking about the division into private and public space. Such a geopolitical reading of the play corresponds to the artistic agenda of the company, communicated by its very name. It also sheds light on Charabanc’s attempt to create a more inclusive and varied cultural space that would reach beyond gender, sectarian, and class divides in Northern Ireland.