An important factor about adapting and socializing in a new country is to understand its history, its socio-cultural and political structure. And one of the most pleasant ways to unveil this new universe is certainly through films and series. That was the reason which motived me to watch “Derry Girls”, a drama comedy produced by Channel 4. It was a surprising and delicious Irish dish that I tasted episode by episode.
The sitcom was created by Lisa MacGee, an Irish screenwriter, and it portrays the youth of 5 Irish friends Erin, Michelle, Clare, Orla, and James, in the early 90s. They live the typical discoveries and insecurities of youth, with exception of living in rural Derry, a conflict area in Northern Ireland. The Trouble is how the interreligious conflict became known and lasted for more than 30 years (and it still lasts) between the “Unionists”, which the majority are Protestant and, which identified as part of the United Kingdom and, on the other side, the “Nationalists ”, mostly Catholic, who identify themselves as Irish and advocated for the unification of the two Irelands.
Under this historical and social context, the 5 young people in the age range of 16 years old live in the middle of this crossfire, with their typical adolescent conflicts such as platonic passions, gossip, rebellion and all that typical adolescence urgency to live, as if the world was going to end the next day.
Even in the sights of the British army and religious conservatism, Erin, the protagonist, is passionate and ambitious. She has a sense of humor and also uses her diary to express her critical and poetic sense of her tedious life in Derry and, her aspirations that do not fit in her home town. She lives in a crowded house, with her family: Mary is the disciplined matriarch who demonstrates that she is in charge of the house ; in contrast, the loving father and provider Gerry, but without an active voice; her sister and baby Anna; her troublemaker grandfather who loves to criticise his son in law; her aunt Sarah, who is attentive but cheeky and always says painful things; and finally, her innocent, distant and high self-esteem cousin, Orla (who reminds me of Phoebe, from “Friends”).
Erin’s best friends are Michelle, the gang troublemaker who snares, rebels, who is cheeky, and loves alcohol and drugs; Clare, the one who tries to be the class mentor, the example of an exemplary student, good girl, modest and homey, but who has a good deal of hysteria; Orla, who as I mentioned, and James who feels like an outsider. The son of an Irish mother, he was born in England, the result of an unwanted pregnancy. He arrives in Derry to study at a girls ‘school because his parents fear that he will be bullied at a boys’ school. They study at the Catholic girl school run by sister Michael, ironic and sarcastic, who navigates between the rigidity demanded by the position, but carries an interesting human side, in understanding all the social conflict around her.
The comedy drama, provides a general identification for typical problems of teenagers around the world, with a very creative and convincing script, which well explores Irish slapstick humour, with touches of sarcasm, and dark humour. In addition, the convincing performances of the actors, especially the older actors. The art direction is also rich. What about the soundtrack? Simply wonderful, with big names in pop music from the 90s and 80s, highlighting the Irish band The cranberries.
Derry girls is a full course meal that deserves to be devoured and to help us discover a little more about the Irish heart and soul.