Ordinary lives, special people: Writer and actor Marie Jones

Marie Jones is bringing Fly Me to the Moon to the Everyman.

Best known for her comedic yet poignant play, Stones in His Pockets, Belfast writer and sometime actor, Marie Jones, is bringing Fly Me to the Moon to the Everyman, directing this touring production, writes Colette Sheridan.

Like all her work, this play’s two protagonists (Loretta and Frances) are ordinary people who are struggling, working for the minimum wage.

As community carers for an elderly man called Davey, the women spot an opportunity to rob him only to deeply regret their decision.

“They make an error of judgement which people can identify with because the women are down on their luck,” says Jones. 

“Unfortunately, that decision escalates. They realise that even if they told the truth, nobody would believe them because they’re nobodies.”

The carers don’t even know Davey very well. They spend just twenty minutes with him per visit. 

“They can look after their clients’ bodily needs but they can’t talk to them. There’s no time to find out who they are.

"But the women, who start questioning themselves, are forced to think about Davey, an ordinary person like them.”

There is comedy in the women’s tendency to turn the incident into a huge catastrophe, fearing arrest and the loss of their children.

“How will they get out of the situation? The audience roars laughing because they keeping making wrong decisions, even trying to become like sleuths, but getting everything wrong.”

Born into a working class Protestant family in East Belfast, Jones still lives in the city with her actor husband, Ian McElhinney (co-producer of Fly Me to the Moon along with Pat Talbot). The couple have three sons.

Everyone, says Jones, is talking about Brexit “but we’re all bored out of our minds by it.”

Nonetheless, she has worked a few lines about the controversial issue into Fly Me to the Moon (written in 2012). Is there a Brexit play on the way from Jones?

“No. I don’t even understand it. Would somebody please explain to me what ‘backstop’ means? I thought it was something you put on your door.”

On a more serious note, Jones hopes “Brexit will be solved. There’s a big border issue here. I don’t know how it will affect us. We’re not in business. We’re just humble artists. I don’t understand all the rules.”

Jones and her husband were away from home when the Brexit referendum took place.

“We didn’t vote. I would have definitely voted to remain. I don’t understand any other way. Everyone seemed happy with it.”

Jones does believe the recent car bomb explosion outside Derry’s courthouse on Bishop Street, said to be the work of the New IRA, is kind of a worry.

“Nobody knows if Brexit was the reason. I don’t know if it was a warning. There’s such an alarmist thing going on. If there’s a hard border, (people say) the trouble will start again. But I can’t see the IRA or Sinn Féin wanting to go back to that again.”

Jones is interested in politics but isn’t a member of any political party. She identifies with socialism. “In any play I write, it’s always about the ordinary person and the struggle to live a life.”

Currently working on a play about the massacre by the UVF of members of the Miami show band outside Newry in 1975, Jones says the show is not going to be all doom and gloom.

“It’s going to deal with that whole period of show bands and how people travelled to go to dance halls where they met others outside of their communities. It is always said that the show bands were the start of mixed marriages. My first boyfriend lived two buses away in Turf Lodge, a real Catholic area.

“We’d never have met if it wasn’t for the show bands. They had a real part to play culturally. And then of course in the play, I deal with what happened after the massacre and how the show bands tried to survive right through the Troubles.”

It’s all grist to the mill for Jones who is keenly attuned to her community.

Fly Me to the Moon is at the Everyman in Cork from February 11-13

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