A new play by Lizzie Nunnery
Directed by Gemma Kerr
25th – 27th October 2018
Reviewed by Jennifer Walker
To Have To Shoot Irishmen is set during The Easter Rising in 1916, as the uprising against British rule hit its peak, and gunshots rang out through Dublin. Inspired by a true story; the murder of Francis Sheehy Skeffington, writer Lizzie Nunnery smartly mixes historic fact alongside fiction, to create a complex narrative for a talented cast of just four to deliver.
Despite being set at the height of the uprising, there were no group scenes showing battles and riots, no violent clashes nor peaceful demonstrations, instead there is quiet reflection, as a woman waited for news of her husband after frantically searching for him, as a prisoner spoke softly to the young guard who was holding him captive, in the regret of an officer as he realized the mistakes that were being made and in the panic of a young man being brought to answer for his naivety and his crimes.
Hannah, played flawlessly by Elinor Lawless, is the feisty feminist waiting on news of her husbands’ fate. Flashback scenes show her arguing with her pacifist husband who is eager to help the injured on both sides. She can’t understand how he can help a soldier one day who could shoot an Irishman the next day. She is powerful with her words, and when she sings you can feel her emotion representing the hurt and anger of ordinary people.
Hannah’s husband Frank, played effortlessly by Gerard Kearns, is being held captive. He strikes up a conversation with the young soldier tasked with guarding him. Iin one moving scene, he urges the young soldier to think for himself rather than just blindly follow orders. There is also a surprisingly comic scene where the two men play imaginary chess which serves to highlight the humanity in both.
Robbie O Neil plays young solider William, as well as offering Frank a verbal sparring partner, he magnificently portrays an entire courtroom scene on his own, which serves to highlight the mistakes made. William is naïve and vulnerable, despite the uniform he wears, and O Neil is simply superb in this role.
Russell Richardson plays General Vane, sent to tell Hannah of Frank’s death, he knows mistakes have been made by his own and his guilt is immeasurable. Richardson brings a solemnity to the role, especially when playing against Lawless.
Overall a very capable cast of four, who manage to accomplish something far greater than expected, surpassing the political and historical messages, and simply showcasing the humanity of it all.
A wonderfully moving and thought-provoking play!