Award-winning Fermanagh playwright Kat Woods is bringing her newest play, ‘Birds of Passage in the Half Light’ (inset), to the Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh, from August 16 to 29 as part of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Presented by Tinderbox Theatre Company and funded by the Arts Council NI, the play is directed by Tinderbox’s artistic director, Patrick J. O’Reilly, and stars Fiona McGeown.


Birds of Passage in the Half Light by Kat Woods.

Birds of Passage in the Half Light by Kat Woods.


It’s described as a dark, comedic excavation of transgenerational storytelling, that is a also proclamation of womanhood, female shame and the weight of history.

Not a stranger to Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this will be Kat’s fifth play to be showcased, and the third to grace the stage of the Gilded Balloon.

However, having brought previous plays to the festival by herself, the Belfast-based, Enniskillen writer is delighted to be joined this year by a creative team, thanks to Tinderbox Theatre Company.

“It’s fascinating, having a team. In the past, I [was] every person, as well as working 40-50 hour weeks in restaurants to fund the Fringe. I would have to do everything else on top,” Kat told The Impartial Reporter, adding that she loves that she is now working with “experts”.

She said: “I was doing trial and error jobs; I didn’t know what I was doing and then I was making little mistakes because I was learning on the job, whereas having a team of people who have specific skillsets in what they are trained to do – it’s incredible, watching their craft.”

Set in post-conflict (Troubles) rural Fermanagh, ‘Birds of Passage in the Half Light’ is a one-woman show which exposes the complicated relationship between the character (Her), faith and the generational impact upon her female lineage.

The play explores the fractured world of Her as she battles with the dogmatic, iron grip that controlled Ireland for centuries. The audience will watch as she tries to set herself free from the dense weight of ancestral wounds.

The battle between the rigidity of religious ideology and the multifaceted realities of women’s daily life is brought to the fore with sensitivity and sharp precision as Her attempts to uncover her present-day experiences, leading a heartfelt call for societal change.

Casting process

Talking about the casting process for the role of Her, Kat explained that she had a specific kind of person in mind, but not a specific actor.

“Whenever we first were going through the casting process, it was myself and Patrick, and one of the producers from the Tinderbox team, and we were sat in a room and we had a number of people come through to audition and they were all amazing. And then we had two or three people that auditioned on Zoom,” said Kat, noting that one of the actors who auditioned in this manner was Fiona McGeown, who was eventually chosen for the role.

“Fiona was based in Cork, so she couldn’t come the day of the initial casting. There was a quality to her work that really struck me, and I loved her from the minute that she appeared on screen, even before the words came out of her mouth.

“Then, whenever we were going into the shortlisting process, we made sure that we could see people in person, because that just makes all the difference – just to solidify who we actually wanted because people bring different energies whenever they’re coming back for a call-back.

“Fiona just blew us away that day, and we couldn’t stop talking about her performance in the room. I thought it was incredible. She’s an incredible performer,” she added.


Kat Woods.

Kat Woods.


Birds of Passage in the Half Light uses powerful and rich storytelling, breath-taking vocal narration, dynamic animation, intricate sound design and radical movement to explore themes of trauma, sexuality and guilt.

The show is in part inspired by the horrors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home discoveries, and the 2015 commission into the practices of Mother and Baby Homes across Ireland.

“I think, with all of my work, I want to press the conversations that happen after [such public discoveries and conversations] because theatre is a reflection of society, and it’s that mode that we have of exploring issues that we mightn’t necessarily think to bring up in conversation,” said Kat, discussing how theatre can be an important platform for encouraging conversation on matters that may not be broached otherwise.


Fiona McGeown in Birds of Passage in the Half Light by Kat Woods.

Fiona McGeown in Birds of Passage in the Half Light by Kat Woods.



“[In this play] the story is multifaceted in the way that we’ve explored the telling. We’re using this animation and it’s going to be this gorgeous fairy tale, and it’s hopefully funny!

“I’ve tried to make it funny anyway, so that it’s not all ‘doom and gloom’ because, as an Irish collective, we can’t tell something sad without having a funny element, because it makes it a bit more bearable.

“So we’ve tried to keep the light with the shade, I guess, to navigate through the density of the story as well,” Kat told this newspaper.

Following its Edinburgh Festival Fringe run, the play will be performed at The Duncairn, Belfast from August 31 to September 11.