Writer: James Plunkett
Adaptor: Jim Sheridan
Director: Jimmy Fay
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
Merging old and new has become somewhat of a given when it comes to commemorating Dublin’s 1913 Lockout. The Abbey Theatre production of James Plunkett’s The Risen People brings the themes of this event to its audience using the unexpected dimension of song and dance.
Naturally more light-hearted and with an entertainment value that packs a punch, The Risen People rises from the ashes of 1913 Dublin and encourages its audience to pursue its effect on those effected by it on ground level. At the top of the class totem pole are a site foreman and his wife; Fitzpatrick, played by Ian Lloyd Anderson, and his wife Annie, played by Charlotte McCurry. The “good fortune” of their position soon dwindles as ‘Fitzy’ rallies alongside his men and joins Larkin’s union, the only foreman to do so.
Rather than the usual dramatised historiography that often comes to pass in a production like this, The Risen People encourages its audience to witness the effect of this union action on familial relationships, friendships and religion. Although featuring all of the landmarks of the Lockout, the ‘heroes and villains’ of this era, William Martin Murphy and Jim Larkin, are represented not as characters, but through projected images onstage and through the songs of the production. The bodily representation of good and evil comes in the form of the striking men and the ‘Scabs’ who stole their jobs.
The set, designed by Alyson Cummins, is highly functional and works well within the genre of the piece. The presence of the Piano and Guitar ensemble side stage worked well and complimented the choreography and vocals of the piece. Once again the marriage of old and new comes through in the entanglement of the rotting tenement set and the fresh projections of choice words and videos onto their walls. This served to illuminate the themes of the play and set the audience’s expectations in the right direction.
Although a working man’s strike, it is the female characters that truly shine in this production. The voices of mothers desperate to ensure their children’s safety overcomes the ‘movement’ on many occassions and gives the audience an alternative insight to what this Lockout really cost the people of Dublin. The
Not to be forgotten are the frequent moments of humour in this piece, the dynamic, almost Beckettian, exchange between Rashers Tierney (Joe Hanley) and Mr. Hennessy (Phelim Drew) breaks the tension of the second half and excels with perfect comic timing.
Despite the competence of the actors and the entertainment value of this piece, it is occasionally hard to follow. Audience members would benefit from a reasonable knowledge of this moment in time in order to pick up on all of the clever historical nuances of the piece. However, even without this, there isn’t a dull moment as the tone shifts from light to dark and back again with ease.
It is important not to forget this time in Ireland’s history, a theme accentuated by the presence of different speakers after the performance closes each evening. By allowing this public interaction at the close of each performance truly incorporates the themes and ideals behind this part of our history and propels its audience to seek out real change as real people share their own personal stories.
Runs until February 1st.