Skip to Content

Over the Bridge

by Sam Thompson

28th April - 14th May 2013
Finborough Theatre

Over the Bridge

The first GB production in over fifty years of the classic sectarian drama


“I sometimes compare people with a story my father used to tell me when I was a wee girl. About how they built a boat in the shipyard, how they started from her keel plate and built her up, riveting and welding her plates to a sound structure... And when she was finished, she’d sail down Belfast Lough and into the ocean to be lashed and buffeted by storms. But dad always said that he could be sure of one thing, she’d come through it all in one piece. Isn’t it a pity people couldn’t be like that?”

Set in 1950s Ulster and against the backdrop of the IRA's Border Campaign, Sam Thompson’s seminal 1960 play is a powerful exposé of sectarian bigotry and violence before the eruption of the Troubles.

Peter O'Boyle, a Catholic shipyard worker, has become the target of a vicious whispering campaign. Veteran Trade Unionist Davy Mitchell, a Protestant who has spent his life fighting for others’ right to work, is keen that the Union does what it can to protect him. As tensions mount and the union begins to split on sectarian lines, mob rule starts to take over...

First staged in Belfast in 1960, the play was produced against a backdrop of controversy when the Ulster Group Theatre withdrew it for being a play that ‘would give rise to sectarianism of an extreme nature’. Its original production, directed by James Ellis, and starring J. G. Devlin, Joseph Tomelty and Harry Towb, played to an audience of 42,000 people during the six-week run, far greater than had attended any play in Belfast previously. It was seen on tour in Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Brighton and the West End, and was adapted for both radio and television.

Described by The Irish Times as "a brickbat hurled violently against bigotry", this Northern Irish classic continues to provoke uncomfortable questions about unity, tolerance and the rules we live by today.


Preview image for a video
Video play button


Caolan Byrne. Robert Calvert. Nick Danan. Drew Dillon. Caitriona Hinds. Lawrence McGrandles Jnr. Melanie McHugh. Amy Molloy. Alan Mooney. Kevin Murphy. Michael Neilson. Chris Robinson. Sean O’Callaghan



“This production of Over the Bridge is the first in London for over 50 years, and deserves the airing that it receives at the Finborough.”

Amy Stow, What's On Stage

“A powerful play with a strong and timely message.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“Both beautifully written and performed.” Sam Thompson, Everything Theatre

“The Finborough regularly stages Irish plays and this is one of the best...Emma Faulkner’s production has an authentic documentary feel and is totally involving. What the West End needs is a small theatre to which fringe productions of this calibre can transfer.”
Robert Tanitch, British Theatre Guide