THE GALWAY City Council’s bulging-at-the-seams title of a new play - The Rising, And By Way Of Interludes World War I - bulges at the seams with some of the key events from Irish history.
Written and directed by Joe O’Byrne, and choreographed by Breandan de Gallai, the play revisits the fateful and tumultuous year of 1916 and comes to the Town Hall Theatre on Thursday February 20 at 8pm.
The momentous events evoked in the play are viewed through the eyes of two friendly adversaries, O’Brien, a Catholic, and McKeague, a Protestant, (performed by Nick O’Connell and John Ruddy ). Between them they create an exhilarating, action packed historical drama suffused with vaudeville, humour, song, and dance.
“The play is part two of a trilogy,” O’Byrne tells me. “There was an earlier one called McKeague and O’Brien Present the Battle of the Boyne and there will be one more about The Troubles. The idea is that it is presented by a Catholic and a Protestant who have differing views on Irish history - for a Northern Protestant the Rising was not a positive occasion.
“The idea is that they have an agreed script to present the story and that in a way is a mirror image of the Good Friday Agreement kind of deal. But within the show they don’t always stick to the script because of their conflicting views of history.
“It’s like a vaudeville double act. McKeague is a Loyalist, he can seem bigoted at times. O’Brien is a Nationalist who sees the Rising as the most important event in Irish history so there is constant conflict between them as they have different attitude to everything.”
The vaudevillian aspects of the show do not detract from the fact it offers a considered view of the period, as O’Byrne explains.
“It does offer a serious perspective of the Rising and surrounding events but there is also comedy and dance woven into it,” her says. “The idea was to present the story in a modern theatrical idiom, so it is not a po-faced look at the story, it is an entertainment but we do try and get in all the serious aspects of the story.
“I did Frank Pig Says Hello [O’Byrne’s brilliant staging of Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy] years ago and that had a vaudevillian style but still told a serious story and this is similar to that.”
O’Byrne reveals the amount of research and re-writes necessary when creating the play.
“It’s difficult to decide what to include or leave out in what is a 90-minute show. I went through seven or eight drafts of the script,” he says. “There is a lot of material, the lead-up to the Rising and the event itself, and World War I as well. I was very interested in the different perspectives of the time from Nationalist and Loyalist views.
“I also wanted to highlight the relevance of these events for contemporary Ireland, McKeague and O’Brien are like two modern characters so there is a sense the conflict has been ever-present and it will take generations for it to be resolved, but hopefully a show like this is a contribution to that process.”
It was O’Byrne’s first time to collaborate with Breandan de Gallai but the two worked together so well that they are already planning to combine again for a production of Salome.
“It was very interesting working with Breandan on The Rising,” O’Bryne affirms. “He is coming from a background in Irish dance but with a strong leaning toward contemporary dance as well. So were crossing those lines between theatre and dance theatre.”
Tickets are €16/14 and are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie