Writer: Christiane O’Mahony
Director: Anushka Senanayake
Reviewer: Tricia O’Beirne
Christiane O’Mahony’s play is on message where it highlights the airbrushing of women from the history of the 1916 Easter Rising. The narrative, as it unfolds on the sparsely furnished stage, introduces two sisters, Josie and Gillian O’Farrell, one a defiant tomboy, the other boy-mad and more concerned with getting married than notions of country or rebellion. The theme of an alternative parallel history of the Rising is woven throughout this performance, which features Christiane O’Mahony as Josie and Roseanne Lynch as Gillian. Both actors play the roles of the young sisters with skill, avoiding sentimentality and imbuing their characters with enough down-to-earth quarrelsomeness and humour to make them come alive on stage. The harp, played by O’Mahony, adds a note of poignancy to the proceedings; the comedic moments are well-judged and have a light touch.
The story setting moves from 1936, where Josie discovers her sister’s omission from the commemorated dead of the Rising, to pre-1916 when the sisters are young and attending classes run by Inghinidhe na hÉireann at the behest of their nationalistic father, and finally to the events of the Rising on the streets of Dublin. It this last scenario that appears problematic, not because it is not plausible but because Josie’s response to Gillian’s death seems brushed over and not consistent with the relationship the audience has observed between the two sisters up to this point. It is not enough for Josie to tell us she felt sad at her sister’s death, she must show us, and that lack of emotion jarred with the integrity and affection demonstrated before the falling-out and Gillian’s demise. However, the humour and physicality of the play certainly made for enjoyable viewing and both actors were more than up to the challenge of bringing the sisters to life. Staging the Rising from the perspective of two young women allows for an alternative look at the challenges the rebels faced; the art of smuggling perishable goods about one’s person gives rise to some funny but also thought-provoking moments!
Runs until 2 May 2016 | Image: courtesy of Galway Theatre Festival