Never before has there been a more hilarious yet endearing portrayal of the juxtaposition between the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the average lives of five teenagers until Lisa McGee’s series, ‘Derry Girls’, was aired on Channel 4.
The programme stars Saoirse-Monica Jackson as Erin Quinn, an ambitious social climber, and her on screen cousin Orla, played by Louisa Harland, whose interests range from melting things to step aerobics. Nicola Coughlan joins the cast by playing Clare, Derry’s answer to a social justice warrior in the 1990’s, along with Jamie-Lee O’Donnell who plays Michelle, the alcoholic hero we all need on our screens right now.
These four friends who make up The Derry Girls also befriend James, Michelle’s cousin, portrayed by Dylan Llewellyn. James is British by birth as his mother went over to England to get an abortion which she did not get in the end, “lucky for James”, according to Michelle. The emphasis on James’s nationality in addition to the backdrop of religious and political conflict, all of which is penetrated by trademark Irish dark humour is what makes this show a success.
Although with some exceptions, such as fancying your local priest, it is not hard to relate to the lives portrayed in this quintessentially Irish programme. Exam stress, the inner battle between you and newfound hormones and the average siege that takes place in the local chipper at the weekend are occurrences depicted in the show that are all too familiar in modern life.
“I always wanted to tell a sort of very real teenage story in the mix of it all,” said McGee.
The comedy ended its season on its 6th episode with an emotional note as it showed Erin’s family gathered together to watch news coverage of a bombing reminiscent of infamous attacks like the one in Omagh. In this poignant scene we see Erin’s father, played by Tommy Tiernan, being embraced by his father-in-law who up until then showed nothing but contempt for him. We also see Erin’s mother holding her baby sister for fear she would have to grow up in a world where this violence would still be endured. This moment was all the more palpable as Dreams by The Cranberries played in the background, paying homage to the late Dolores O’Riordan.
The current political climate in the North is as uncertain as it has been in years with the death of Martin McGuinness, the DUP going into government with the British Conservative party and Gerry Adams stepping down as President of Sinn Féin after 35 years at the helm. But the humanity, humour, melancholy and nostalgia provided in Derry Girls aids the prevention of us falling back into that kind of violence.
Derry Girls was given the go ahead to create a second season just after the first episode was aired. Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle, who is a self-proclaimed fan of the show, is rumoured to make a cameo appearance in the next series. Derry Girls was an absolute triumph but may not suitable for those who would refer to the county as ‘Londonderry.’