‘THE odd bomb will go off, or you’ll hear shots in the distance,” says Richard Baron, director of the Citizens Theatre’s forthcoming production of Bold Girls, Rona Munro’s sharp 1991 tale of friendship and betrayal set in Belfast.

The “girls” are: Marie, a kindly young widow who idolised her late IRA member husband, played by Lucianne McEvoy; her friend Cassie (Outlander actress Scarlett Mack), a twenty-something mum-of-two back living with her mother Nora (River City’s Deirdre Davis); and Deirdre (Sinead Sharkey), a teenage outsider viewed with suspicion by the older women.

While fire and bullets rain across the city, they’re reasonably nonchalant. This is the background noise of war.

“When it gets closer to home obviously they get worried – as their kids might be playing in the street,” says Baron, who also directed the 2012 production of Munro’s prison drama Iron. “But this is a place where soldiers might come banging into your house at any moment.”

Bold Girls is unusual among Troubles-set plays for deflecting focus away from political ructions and sectarian strife to shine a light on the often hidden domestic world beyond. Men may be spoken of in Bold Girls but here they are marked by their absence, and by the consequences of their public conflicts on the lives of their partners and children.

“There is a plethora of Troubles plays that explore the sectarian divide, but the very clever thing about this play is that it’s a small part,” says Mack, whose parents and grandparents are from Belfast.

“Instead it centres around the women, and the struggle against a violent, male-dominated society. Rona is also very careful to be even-handed in the sense of there being no ‘Catholics are right and Protestants are wrong’ sort-of-thing.”

While Bold Girls may have long been studied by schools, some of which are expected to attend this run, it’s been little performed since its original 1991 run for 7:84, who originally commissioned Munro.

As the twentieth anniversary of the play approaches, Baron said he was “thrilled” when Citz artistic director Dominic Hill asked him to helm this, the largest main stage production of the play yet. His Borders-based theatre company Firebrand had long wanted to restage it, but the rights weren’t available.

With Brexit destabilising the future of Remain-voting Northern Ireland, and James Brokenshire’s November-imposed budget seen as a step towards transferring political power back to London, the Troubles are back in the news, as well as the continuing exposure of how gendered harassment constrains women’s lives. On a personal and political level, issues of power explored in Bold Girls have sharpened relevance.

With the majority of the action taking place in Marie’s house, these are women whose lives are largely determined by the decisions of others. As Mack notes: “They literally can’t even go far. The furthest they have been is Donegal.”

Originally from Stonehaven and now based in the Borders, Munro was living in Belfast when she wrote the play, and the four characters are largely based on women she met and researched there. Baron says Firebrand also undertook their own research.

“These families were quite ghetto-ised and were in some ways living behind the times,” he says. “There’s no telephone or washing machine in the house, which is damp and cold – the kids are wearing gloves to play their computer games. It’s a very tight-knit community and they are quite impoverished, but they keep up appearances. It’s very important to them to do that.

“The research we’ve done as a company tells us it could be an oppressive, dangerous and unpleasant world. A lot of women in this situation were on medication to cope. Or took to drink.”

Stuffed in with her mother and two children, Cassie attempts to soothe herself with Blind Date and magazines.

“She’s fairly fed up with her lot,” says Mack. “She’s fed up with life but unfortunately has got no power or money to get out of there. She’s trying to figure a way out of her little box.”

Bold Girls is less a “Troubles play” and more a witty, abrasive take on relationships: relationships between women, between women and men, and between the truth and fiction. It’s a play about coping, whether through substance use, self-deception or betrayal.

“When you’re stuck in these situations, it’s really interesting to see how different personalities will figure their way out of, or around, whatever is going on,” says Mack. “The three women – Cassie, her mother and her best friend Marie – are all very close and they all have different coping mechanisms.”

When young stranger Deidre enters, she unsettles their fragile balance of “managing”.

“They don’t know whether she’s on their side or whether she is spying on them,” says Mack. “It’s an unfortunate thing, but it’s an environment of mistrust, and though she’s only a young girl and seemingly defenceless, they don’t know what’s going on.”

Mack’s school holidays usually began by getting “straight in the car and on the ferry to Belfast” within hours of class ending.

“At that time there were still checkpoints, there were still soldiers with guns pointing at you,” she says. “It has influenced a generation.

“It’s such an odd thing because it’s happened so recently but a lot of people in Scotland and England wouldn’t think of it. If you asked them to name a recent war, I don’t think they’d talk about it.”

Brexit and the Tories’ deal with the DUP has caused real concern, she says.

“People are worried about it. I was talking with my auntie the other day, who told me there’s a huge amount of unrest about the allegiances that Theresa May has made. I don’t think she understands the ripple effects of those decisions on what is already an unstable government.

“It’s not to suggest it would stir up the Troubles again, but it is always there, boiling under the surface.”

January 24 to February 10, 7.30pm, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, £12.50 to £23, mats Feb 3, Feb 10, 2.30pm. Tel: 0141 429 0022. www.citz.co.uk