Sunday 4 December 2016

Oscar nominee Donoghue among authors of landmark Rising play

Published 23/03/2016 | 02:30

Writers Marina Carr, Rachel Fehily, Hugo Hamilton, Joseph O’Connor and Thomas Kilroy on the landing of Kilmainham Gaol. Pic: Marc O'Sullivan
Writers Marina Carr, Rachel Fehily, Hugo Hamilton, Joseph O’Connor and Thomas Kilroy on the landing of Kilmainham Gaol. Pic: Marc O'Sullivan
Joseph O’Connor and Rachel Fehily. Photo: RollingNews.ie

Oscar nominated Emma Donoghue is among the renowned authors to have paid homage to the leaders of the 1916 Rising in a landmark new theatrical production.

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In what promises to be one of the cultural highlights of the 1916 celebrations, the thoughts of the signatories of the Proclamation will be reimagined in the historic surrounds of Kilmainham Gaol next month.

Presented by UCD and Verdant Productions, 'Signatories' will pay homage to the iconic patriots in the prison where they were executed 100 years ago.

Eight of Ireland's most celebrated authors, including Ms Donoghue and Frank McGuinness, were commissioned to pen monologues commemorating the seven signatories, as well as nurse Elizabeth O'Farrell.

Chilly

Speaking at the permanently chilly prison in the capital yesterday, Tony Award-winning director Patrick Mason urged audiences to "wrap up warm" for the unique stroll through Irish history.

He explained: "It's a promenade production so the audience moves through the space and they meet these figures.

"It threads through from Elizabeth O'Farrell in the GPO to Joseph Plunkett who was the last to be executed in the stonebreakers' yard.

"The challenges [of staging the piece at the museum] are quite different - this needs a certain kind of bravura. But the great magic of this place is that there is something which can't beat being here."

Taking place on the actual centenary of the Easter Rising, almost 1,000 people will get the chance to catch the atmospheric show.

Playwright Marina Carr confessed she had to hit the books before imagining the events of 1916 through the eyes of signatory and poet Thomas McDonagh.

"I hadn't a clue. I knew the poem 'Lament for Thomas McDonagh' by Francis Ledwidge, but that's all I knew about him - that he was shot," she joked.

"My Irish history is dreadful, so I had to have a big swat up and loved it.

"I absolutely fell in love with Thomas McDonagh. He was just such a charismatic man. I had a fantastic time writing it."

Stepping into the shoes of the executed revolutionary, Love/Hate actor Stephen Jones conversely told how he was in his element.

"Funny enough, from a past life I have a history degree from UCD, so I had a fairly decent recollection of the whole time period.

"I've done it once or twice before where I've played characters based on real people and you just have to find your own way into it.

"In Marina's piece, he's talking about how he's going to miss his family and how he's leaving them with nothing," continued Red Rock star Jones. "So you just try and associate anything you can in your own life with those feelings.

"Although you want to get it right, you've got to forget the history books, and remember he was just a guy."

* 'Signatories' runs from April 22-May 5, starting with three days at Kilmainham Gaol and then moving to the Pavilion Theatre, Civic Theatre and National Concert Hall. Ticket bookings from www.ticketmaster.ie

Irish Independent

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