Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1959 - shipbuilding capital of the world, hotbed of religious division.
“Over the Bridge” was the first ever play in Belfast to tackle the build up of religious division between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, which would eventually lead to The Troubles – decades of fighting in Northern Ireland and terrorist bombings on British soil over whether Northern Ireland should return to being part of Ireland or remain within the United Kingdom.
1959 - shipyard worker turned playwright Sam Thompson walked up to Artistic Director James Ellis in the street & proclaimed “I have a play here you won’t touch with a bargepole”. Ellis took the play home to his father, a former shipyard worker, to gain his approval, then agreed to stage the play at The Group Theatre.
However, the pair ran into instant censorship from the Chairman of the theatre who asked to modify the play beyond recognition, and ultimately the entire Belfast establishment.
This film documents for the first time the battle of these two angry young men to stage the play.
Featuring resignations, explosive scenes of dialogue from the play, emotional moments at the house of Ellis’ father and constant rejection from the theatres of the time, we watch as two determined men fight to stage their play, eventually succeeding at their final attempt.
It finally opens, with 42,000 people coming to see the play, including Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier, who brings the play to the London stage.