Strike! Ardent Theatre Company

By Tracy Ryan | Director Kirsty Patrick Ward

14 Apr 2023| News

THU 13 April – SAT 6 May 2023


Dunnes Stores, Dublin, July 1984

As a South African grapefruit rolls towards the shop till, it will start something that will take nearly three years to finish……

It’s a hot, hot summer and Frankie Goes to Hollywood are riding high in the charts. At Dunnes Store, shop assistant Mary Manning refuses to ring up a grapefruit, sticking to her union instructions not to handle South African goods, in protest of the country’s apartheid policies. Mary is immediately suspended and it’s not long before she and eight other young women and one young man, all workers at Dunnes, are out on strike. It’ll only last a few weeks……

Kirsty Patrick Ward directs Tracy Ryan’s extraordinary account of the Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strike which took place in Dublin from 1984 to 1987. This action would play a pivotal role in world history with Ireland becoming the first Western European state to ban South African imports and ultimately leading to the fall of the apartheid regime.

Full of passion and humour, Strike! is the true story of the hardships and personal sacrifices, the friendships and camaraderie these extraordinary young shop workers experienced as they stood up for what they believed in. As their understanding of the suffering under apartheid in South Africa and the politics within their own Government deepened, they began a journey that would change their lives, and Ireland, forever.

“I would like to make a plea to the owners. Here are young people of whom you ought to be proud, because these are people of such integrity. You should be glad that you have people of such calibre working for you. I would like to call on you to hear what they are trying to say.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1984

Box Office
No Booking Fee Online or by Telephone
By Telephone 020 7407 0234
Nearest Tube: Elephant & Castle / Borough

Ticket Prices
£28.50 / £23 Concession / All Previews £16
Concessions apply to full time students, patrons over 65, and patrons claiming Universal Credit.
Concessions are available Monday to Thursday and on Tuesday and Saturday matinees.

There is a special offer – pay what price you can afford:

£10 – Use code STRIKE10 when checking out

£20 – Use code STRIKE20 when checking out


Accessible Performances
Captioned Performances:
Saturday 22 April 2023 at 3pm & 7.30pm
Provided by StageText

Special Events
Tuesday 18th April: 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Following the 3pm matinee there will be a Q&A with some of the strikers.
For ticket holders of the matinee only.

Image credit
Design by Sean Longmore


On 28th July 2021 at the Irish Cultural Centre we held a rehearsed reading of STRIKE! with 13 actors and directed by Kate Saxon. The reading was filmed and presented online on 16th September and followed by a live-streamed Q&A with strikers Karen Gearon, Liz Deasy and Vonnie Monroe. Here’s what people said about it:

“Strike! tells how the action of 11 young Dunnes store shopworkers changed Irish government policy towards apartheid South Africa. When Mary Manning refused to check out a South African grapefruit, she and her colleagues had no idea that they would spend the next 34 months on strike and take on the might of the Irish establishment. With humour and humanity Strike! shows how the strikers refused to give in. In 1984 they were an inspiration to all those fighting apartheid: they remain an inspiration to everyone who wants a fairer and more equal world.” Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives

“The powerful story of several young women taking on the might of their employer in support of the call from the black majority in South Africa to boycott apartheid products is brought to life in this play. What is astonishing is how relevant it is today. It speaks to the challenges women continue to face as workers, and what steadfastness in the face of overwhelming odds can mean both personally and to making a difference. It also highlights the role that international communities must play in solidarity with abuses of human rights. I was moved by the stories of the individual women, and by how their personal sacrifices impacted on the lives of people living under apartheid in South Africa.” Chitra Karve, Chair of Action for Southern Africa, the successor body to the British Anti-Apartheid Movement.

“This play is powerful, full of both passion and humour and tells the story of brave young, predominantly women trade union members standing against the injustice of apartheid. It’s a story documenting history and struggle, a story of solidarity, of unity, strength and determination, one we can all relate to and be inspired by. An important part of trade union history but also why and how international solidarity and the boycott campaign played an important part in challenging apartheid in South Africa. It was a story I could relate to as I also joined the boycott campaign as a student and organised in the student movement and communities.” Zita Holbourne Trustee ACTSA, National Vice President PCS, Joint National Chair Artists’ Union England, Author, Poet, Artist, Curator.

Review in Everything Theatre:

At a time when strikes are in the news on a daily basis and when the British government has proposed laws to ban them, Strike! is a timely reminder of the right to withdraw labour and the difference that a small group of people can make. Dunnes Stores is still one of the largest chains in Ireland and back in 1984 nine young women and one young man went on strike. Their union had advised them not to handle any goods from apartheid South Africa and on refusing to do so, one worker, Mary Manning (Chloe O’Reilly), was suspended. Her colleagues walked out in support. They didn’t know much about South Africa; part of their motivation was to give their bosses a bit of a kicking.

The strike would last more than two years and see the striking workers meet Bishop Desmond Tutu, travel to South Africa (where they were denied entry), whilst facing down challenges from their own union, government and the catholic church. In the end it would lead to Ireland becoming the first Western country to ban the import of South African goods.

Strike! is based on this amazing true story and relates the experiences of all ten of the striking workers, albeit broadly. Credit must be given to writer Tracy Ryan and Ardent Theatre Company: it would have almost certainly been easier and cheaper to reduce the cast numbers, but it is important to show each of the strikers and their commitment, bravery and sacrifice. The large company ensures that the show is busy, with high energy coming from the stage and a lot of laughs. At times you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a pure comedy.

Strike! excels at showing the camaraderie and solidarity between the strikers while also building a connection with the audience. There’s a lot to pack in, from 1984 through until 2013, but frequent narration brings us along and lets the voices of the individual strikers come directly through to the audience. The ensemble are all strong, each ensuring that their character shines in their moment in the spotlight, and doing justice to those brave strikers. Paul Carroll has a huge amount of fun, firstly as the almost cartoonish Dunnes Manager and then as the supportive union rep. Nimrod Sejake (Mensah Bediako), a South African labour leader living in exile in Ireland who brings the reality of apartheid to the strikers and supplies a much needed South African voice.

The set by designer Libby Watson keeps a Dunnes sign at the top, overshadowing all the strikers. This sign remains visible and unmovable as the strikers suffer the weather on the picket line along with abuse from colleagues and even the police. Even as the story whirls to New York to see the strikers address the United Nations, the Dunnes sign still hangs over everything. The floor showing the South African flag design begins in black and white and ends with the modern colours, a country free from apartheid.

Powerful and poignant, the ending brings tears to some of the audience and some of the cast. Strike! stands as tribute to those valiant strikers, the power of strike action and the pride and joy of solidarity. This is an absolutely memorable and unmissable night at the theatre, and even telling friends about it the next day, I found the tears threatening a comeback. Dave B