Remembering 1916 with Seven Lives For Liberty

NEXT WEEK the Town Hall Theatre hosts Seven Lives For Liberty, a theatrical tribute in drama and music to the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation.

Featuring a cast of 37 performers, the show includes original songs by Pat Waters composed in honour of each of the signatories, dramatic recreations of key incidents from their lives, and striking use of archive photographic images of the key personalities and locations of the era.

The show, which will shortly commence an extensive tour of Ireland, has received the patronage of the descendants of the signatories and one of its principal organisers has been James Connolly-Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly.

Ahead of Seven Lives For Liberty’s Galway performance, James Connolly-Heron talked to me about the show, beginning with an account of how it all came about. “It all started when Pat Waters came to my door one day with his CD containing his songs in honour of the signatories. When I listened to the songs I was surprised by how good they were.

“I had the idea initially of doing a launch for the CD and then I thought ‘Why not a show with dramatic vignettes that would tell people about the signatories’ lives?’ I already knew writer Frank Allen through his play Twelve Days In May, based on the final days of James Connolly so I got in touch with him and he got together all the actors, etc, and we ended up doing a very successful show in Liberty Hall.

“From a very modest beginning and a modest plan for a simple show it has now grown and taken on a life of its own. You could say it has become the Riverdance of the revolution!”

Connolly-Heron notes of the signatories: “They were more than just military figures. They played a huge part in the cultural and artistic revival of the nation at the time; they were poets, playwrights, teachers, musicians. Eamon Ceannt for instance was an uileann piper and founded the Dublin Pipers’ Club which still exists to this day. We refer to them as the golden generation of their time, compared to our own time where we instead have golden circles.”

He expands on what audiences can expect from the evening: “I’d describe it as a show, not a play. We’re putting in a lot of content we hope will be new to people and we’re painting a broader canvas in portraying them than how they are often seen. In terms of the writing we have tried as far as possible to stay true to their own actual words, a lot of scenes are drawn from their last statements to their courts martial or to family members.

“As well as Pat Waters’ songs we have included traditional airs and songs so there is a mix there in terms of the music. We use a lot of visuals as well, so you might have a photograph of Tom Clarke’s shop or St Enda’s School. We weren’t sure initially how well the transition between visuals and live actors would work but it really did and there were times when you could hear a pin drop during in Liberty Hall.”

Connolly-Heron was personally impressed with how Seven Lives brought his famous forebear to life: “What the show did for me watching it was it took the picture of him down off the wall and presented him as a real life character which was amazing. We got great reactions from other relatives along the same lines, that it created living people out of what had always been this image in your life. The relatives are patrons of the show and have been very supportive of the project, and quite a few of us will be present for the Galway show, notably the Ceannt family descendants.”

Seven Lives For Liberty is at the Town Hall on Thursday November 15 at 8pm. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie, while on Wednesday 14 at 9pm, the musicians who feature in the show will play a gig in Monroe’s, in Dominick Street.

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