Bloody Irish on PBS
An uplifting and original musical stage show depicting the armed rebellion, the 1916 Easter Rising, will air on PBS on October 17.
The Bloody Irish, recently recorded live in the Helix theater, Dublin, is a remarkable performance that is sure to move its audience but will also raise questions about the events of the Rising.
The stage show combines rousing Irish ballads of that time, such as “Rocky Road to Dublin” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” with the poignant human story of bravery, doubt and loss on the ground. Barry Devlin’s play steers away from the “standard reiteration” of this often discussed part of Irish history. What he hoped to achieve was something strikingly different and this musical show is certainly that.
The play opens with a little girl hauntingly singing in the foreground as seven Irish rebel leaders are shot dead while standing on a Union Jack. The audience is then introduced to the narrator of the play, Sir John Grenfell Maxwell, the man tasked with quelling the rebellion and pacifying Ireland. Oft painted as an ogre, Maxwell is masterfully portrayed by Malcolm Sinclair.
Devlin told Irish America “Maxwell obviously states it straight down the line as he saw it, as the Empire saw it and he only gradually comes to terms with something that he already knows: that the rebels were always going to lose and that failure was going to win it for them. They became martyrs. Bloody Irish depicts the fear felt by the rebels themselves, showing them as mortals with doubts about their undertaking. It also shows what the Irish at the time would have felt about the Rising.
“What I tried to analyze was the way 1916 has been baked and sermonized into this perfect thing,” Devlin said. “And yet at the time it was fluid, it was a close up thing that could easily have gone either way in terms of how the public viewed it. They were seen to have brought down the wrath of hell on them. People weren’t sure for what.”
The show’s 23-strong cast includes Lorcan Cranitch as James Connolly, Gavin O’Connor as Patrick Pearse, as well as Lisa Lambe and Fiachna O’Braonain, among the lead vocals. Bloody Irish is set to air on PBS on October 17, 2015, and again during the station’s December pledge drive. In February, the musical will be launched in cinemas across America and it’s hoped that by April 2016, at the time of the 1916 centenary, the actual stage show of Bloody Irish could be touring the United States. ♦