To Have to Shoot Irishmen was a tale that reached into my chest and tore out my heart.
To give context to this play we need be travel through Irish history briefly.
Before 1916 (when the play is set) Ireland had been under British rule since the medieval times and after many battles Britain’s power continued to grow. During the First World War, Britain was to be distracted by fighting and so the Irish Republican Brotherhood planned to spread their different regiment volunteers throughout the country to parade on Easter Sunday to strategically hold the country for their own. After changes of plans, this parade was mainly centred in Dublin. British Forces soon moved in and fighting on the streets of the city began – lasting six days and killing 466 people. Shortly after, the Rising organisers were executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol. In 1918, Sinn Fein won the British Parliament election in Ireland and develop a new Irish Government with the men that were executed as rebels becoming martyrs for fighting for Irish independence.
Lizzie Nunnery’s play features the story of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (known as Frank, played by Gerard Kearns) was a pacifist and who attempted to stop looters. We discover that he and his wife, Hanna (played by Elinor Lawless) have a young child at home as he is arrested by the British Army and spoiler alert, executed for no particular reason.
“All the dead children in Erin go Bragh”
Folk song is scattered artfully throughout connecting the story to its traditional gaelic roots. “‘Twas the sweetest and neatest thing you ever saw, all the dead soldiers in Erin go Bragh, their children will tell how their forefathers saw all the dead children in Erin go Bragh.”
Although the songs are sorrowful and paint a devastating picture of a blood-soaked Dublin City, Nunnery’s writing allows the audience to remember and experience just how upsetting the events of 1916 were, although, of course not to the full extent to which it was awful.
The tears trickled down both Hanna and Frank’s faces connecting to the audience on an intimate level, to which I have only experienced from an upset family member.
“Could peace come after? After what? Who will we be?”
The bare-bones set of wreckage and destroyed home furnishings is the perfect surroundings for such a tragic story and the addition of only four actors made the play’s innermost emotions spill out into the audience, leaving a profound silence at the production’s conclusion.
The production will continue to tour with shows throughout November, click here for more information about booking tickets.