Friday 2 December 2016

Seven reasons why RTE'S Rebellion was more 'damp squib' than 'explosive triumph'

Published 31/01/2016 | 22:46

Historical fiction: Perdita Weeks as Vanessa and Sarah Greene as May in RTE's 'Rebellion'
Historical fiction: Perdita Weeks as Vanessa and Sarah Greene as May in RTE's 'Rebellion'

Excitement was not exactly fever-pitch ahead of last night's final episode of 'Rebellion' on RTE One.

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The broadcaster's five-part, €6 million contribution to the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising was touted as a small-screen blockbuster.

But, after an engaging first hour, it has proved more damp squib than explosive triumph, an impression confirmed by an underwhelming closing dispatch which focused on the aftermath of the fighting (and found room for girl-on-girl kiss between Ruth Bradley and Sarah Greene that screamed "wtf?").

Audiences have tumbled as the mini-series, by 'Charlie' writer Colin Teevan, failed to deliver the expected blood and thunder. Here are seven reasons 'Rebellion' fell short of expectations.

1: Key Characters Were Not Brought Convincingly To Life

One of the pivotal scenes in the final episode was the execution by firing squad of James Connolly.

Screen beauty: Actress Perdita Weeks appears in RTE's 'Rebellion' Photo: Patrick Redmond
Screen beauty: Actress Perdita Weeks appears in RTE's 'Rebellion' Photo: Patrick Redmond

Yet the socialist leader had been thinly-sketched and viewers will have greeted his death with a shrug.

We never really knew him – why did we care that he was gone? And did RTE have to slap a Six Nation countdown in the corner as he was sent to his maker? Historians will also surely quibble with the portrayal of De Valera as fascist sociopath.

Paul Reid who plays Stephen in RTE drama Rebellion. Picture:Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin
Paul Reid who plays Stephen in RTE drama Rebellion. Picture:Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

2: It Was Boring.

The events of 1916 have divided commentators for decades. But whether we regard the Rising as the futile gesture of an extremist cabal or the sacrifice that lead to the foundation of the State, we can at least agree it was a reasonably lively.

As brought to the screen by Teevan, however, the Rising has all the dramatic punch of a mooch around St Stephen's Green in the rain. It singularly failed to conjure the sweep or historic import of the Rising.

3: Not Enough Action

Following from point two, one would think that a protracted shoot-out between a rag-tag of rebels and the pre-eminent military power of the age would have resulted in some memorable fight scenes.

Yet Rebellion held its nose whenever someone reached for a gun – as if the dirty business of killing and dying for Ireland were beneath it.

4: It Really Wanted To Be A Soap

Shining a light on the contribution of women to Irish independence is necessary and overdue.Yet RTE seems of the opinion that you can't put females on screen without focusing on their romantic misadventures.

It's not enough that we saw Charlie Murphy and Ruth Bradley don great coats and loaded rifles as they set off to fight for Ireland. We had to drink deep of the female characters' secret heartache.

5: The Production Values Weren't Up To It

Reviewing episode one, I gushed over Rebellion's recreation of pre-independence Dublin, with Nelson's Pillar overlooking what was then Sackville Street and a dreadnought docked at the Customs House.

Alas, such money shots grew increasingly infrequent as the series went on and soon the viewer may have suspected the whole thing was filmed on the Fair City backlot, with some starving urchins and horse-drawn carts tossed in at the last minute.

6: It Was Too Long

The story of The Rising is complex and far-ranging. Yet did we require five hours to learn Easter 1916 impacted profoundly on the lives of ordinary Dubliners? In theory perhaps. But Rebellion was flabby to the point of incoherence – a flaw a shorter running time may have remedied.

7: It Didn't Ring True

Was the public really going about its everyday business in central Dublin as the two sides slogged it out?

Were that the case, Rebellion ought to have worked harder at conjuring the surreal vista of a city trying to get on with life as an uprising raged.

Instead, we saw people visit the pub and pop to the shops as though the Rising were no more inconvenient than the cross-city Luas upgrade.

Further points deducted for the scene in which a woman shouts "here they come, guys!" as the rebels are marched off to prison. She was presumably preparing to hurl her flat white and artisan sandwich at them in rage.

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