Category Archives: Theatre Upstairs

Theatre Upstairs: The words are there


If a picture tells a thousand words, then what about a movement, a gesture, a pose, a step? How much of a story can be told by the way we move, turn, look or keep completely still and silent?…

Silence… Ronan Dempsey’s new piece is anything but silent. As a matter of fact, it’s screaming louder than any amount of words. A story about a man, whose whole life is as turned and broken inside as it is outside: a table balancing on three legs, a puddle of spilled wine so similar to a quickly growing pool of blood, a festive sign “Welcome Home” written to someone special, who was never meant to see it in the first place.

The Words Are There is the kind of tragedy that usually happens behind the closed doors. It’s not talked about. But it doesn’t make the screams of the abused one being any less louder. It’s just not everyone wants to hear them. The walls people build conceal everything.

He – The Man (played by Ronan Dempsey) is a person who has seen abuse from an early age. When he meets her – The Woman (voiced by Jessica Leen) – a little hope of a possible happiness is being born in his heart. They will live in Bettystown, by the sea. And everything is going to be fine because he has her and she has him. But not unlike him, she has demons of her own who are tearing her broken soul apart.

In his fifty minute piece and one single, almost spilled out, line, Ronan Dempsey presents a story deeper than those books worth a thousand pages. When actions speak louder than any words, the tale tells itself.

The Words Are There balances on the border between reality and fantasy created by The Man. Trained in physical theatre and mime by the very masters of their art, Dempsey builds a whole world on stage; only a true genius can make a mop not only come alive but also represent something beautiful and lovable.

A performance that speaks for itself. The Words Are There is an unforgettable piece of theatre that won’t leave anyone unmoved. The play is written and directed by Ronan Dempsey and presented by The Nth Degree Productions in collaboration with Theatre Upstairs, where it runs till May 20th. Fore more info or to book tickets: 

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Theatre Upstairs: Monster?


A new collaboration between Theatre Upstairs and EGM Productions has brought a real gem to its audience. Emily Gillmor Murphy’s new play Monster? is an original poignant story that won’t leave anyone feeling indifferent.

Let’s have one more conversation about women’s reproductive rights. Let’s look at the situation from a different point this time: what if she just doesn’t want to be a mother? Does it make a monster out of her? After all, all that a woman wants is to have a choice and not to be judged or frowned upon for how she feels.

Nell (played by Aisling O’Mara) – a mother-to- be – a woman – an individual and a human being just like anyone else – keeps repeating to her unhappened partner Adam (played by Jamie O’Neill) that the body is hers. Not his or the baby’s, but hers. After a drunk one night stand, she quickly discovers her unexpected new condition. Adam, though a nice guy but definitely not yet ready for becoming a father, after a brief freak out offers Nell to move in with him and, maybe, start a family. Isn’t it, after all, what every girl dreams of? Almost an orphan herself, Nell already knows she doesn’t want this baby. Not because she is an evil creature or a witch from a kid’s fairy tale but simple because she doesn’t feel ready to bring a new life into this world. My body – my choice? Or shall Nell just follow the rules of the society and silently consent to what God has created every woman for?

This roughly an hour long play doesn’t only take an unconventional approach to an important (mostly unspoken of) social topic but it also has an absolutely perfect sharp ending for a piece of this kind. With a small cast of three, Monster? is a surprisingly funny play. Michael Glenn Murphy (who plays Ru) provides the ultimate comic relief, while the other two actors wonderfully balance the tragedy and the heaviness of the story. All under the directing hand of the master himself – Karl Shiels.

Lisa Krugel’s simple but quite stunning stage design – a bar – is the first thing that welcomes you into Theatre Upstairs’ cosy auditorium. It provides the perfect setting for the story and the unforgettable beginning.

Monster? is a play that gives you more than mere entertaining and a nice night out. It gives you some real food for thought. It’s a brave, challenging production created by a bunch of undoubtedly talented and creatively inspiring artists.

Monster? by Emily Gillmor-Murphy runs in Theatre Upstairs till April 29th. So, there is no excuse not to go! For more info or to book tickets:

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Theatre Upstairs: Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws


Tea + Toast Theatre Company in association with Theatre Upstairs presents Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws. And if the title itself hasn’t already intrigued you enough, then maybe you should stick around for a bit longer to find out what it’s all about.

An original piece of theatre, written by Joyce Dignam and directed by Dignam herself and Meabh Hennelly, Fizzy Drinks is a simple story told from a very nontrivial point of view. It tells us about an Irish family on their holidays in Wexford. Maybe not the fanciest of all holiday destinations, one might think and Lara (played by Ali Hardiman) and Rosie (played by Tara Maguire) will definitely agree with you. But it’s not the lack of exoticism or Mediterranean sun on the resort that upsets the little girls; it’s the feeling that something bad is going on in their family and nobody would tell or explain them anything. Mam and Dad seem to be enclosed in a local pub with a family friend, while Lara and Rosie are left to play by themselves in a playground outside. Nevertheless, their minds can’t help but wonder what’s really hiding behind all that grown-up talk that even playing Mommies and Daddies doesn’t help.

In this approximately one hour play, we witness the story from the point of view of two little girls – the eldest being only ten. It’s definitely catchy and refreshing. Both Hardiman and Maguire are excellent at portraying little girls as well as adults. The sense of naiveness and childishness that they transmit to the audience is nothing but adorable and hugely entertaining.

Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws is an easy to watch and enjoy production showcasing some of the raising talents of the Irish theatre. The play was presented as part of this year’s Scene and Heard Festival last month. Apart from decent acting, there is some nice lighting (by Shane Gill) and sound (by Conrad Jones-Brangan) designs. As for the set design, being presented as a playground, it’s quite outstanding with a real slide mounted on the Theatre Upstairs’ cozy stage.

Fizzy Drinks with Two Straws runs in Theatre Upstairs till April 8th. It’s never too late to be a child again and perhaps remind yourself how it all used to feel like. For more info or to book tickets:

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Theatre Upstairs: Murder of Crows


“The only way to get what you want is to make them more afraid of you than they are of each other.”

– The Crimson Crow

Christmas could be very different. And sure it’s unlike anything else in Theatre Upstairs, where unravels a dark tale of friendship, foulness and fighting for the ones you love.

Bitter Like a Lemon in association with Theatre Upstairs presents its latest play Murder of Crows, a story about a school trip to hell. The three best friends Sam (played by Katie Honan), Dee (played by Amilia Stewart) and Jess (played by Aisling O’Mara) aren’t even meant to go in the first place but end up on the bus to the Garden of Ireland anyway. Just before the trip begins the girlfriends hear a prophecy that warns them of the black crows and begs them not to go anywhere near them. Not taking it too seriously, the girls set off on a journey that is going to change their lives forever. In Wicklow, they are scheduled to do some obligatory scholar activities that nobody is particularly excited about but the real fun starts after. The girls of St Brigit’s are being joined by students – mainly boys – from other schools. They start drinking, intermingling and do things that teenagers normally do. But the fateful hour has already been set. And maybe some people should be more careful with what they say and do, maybe they shouldn’t bully and make fun of others – weaker – ones… Maybe deep inside each one of us lives a little devil that is only waiting to be set free. The consequences of which sometimes can be harmful, even mortal or soul destroying.

Lee Coffey’s Murder of Crows is a heartbreaking piece with an unbelievable twist at the end. It’s almost impossible to digest how much raw meaty parts there is in this slightly under one hour play. Under the superb direction of Karl Shiels, the gradation of the piece is perfectly timed: it starts off nicely and slowly with no preparation of what is yet to come. You think it might be just one of those hight school plays where students talk about their problems. But you couldn’t be further from being wrong. Lee Coffey wouldn’t be Lee Coffey if he hadn’t written a play that actually aims to touch on some of the most tabooed and controversial subjects that teenagers encounter in everyday life but are afraid to talk about.

The script is being strongly supported by the outstanding cast of three actresses, who absolute nail their parts. The characterization and physicality is incredibly strong and it goes to both the main parts that the girls are playing and the secondary characters. I don’t think I’ll be wrong if I say that the way Aisling O’Mara delivered the prophecy sent chills to everyone in the audience. An absolutely out-of-this-world experience that petrified and mesmerized at the same time.

In a play like Murder of Crows, visual aspects can be very important and influential. The two things that caught my eye straight away were, of course, the set (by Naomi Faughnan) and the lighting (by Laura Honan) designs. Quite simple but visually very strong mood setters that made the piece even more atmospheric.

So, if you are in a mood for something completely different this season, don’t be a Grinch and steal Christmas. Go to see Murder or Crows and get your dose of darkness and brutal reality! Runs in Theatre Upstairs until December 17th, for more info or to book tickets:

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Theatre Upstairs: Test Dummy


After the morning with #WakingTheFeminists’s one year recap in the Abbey Theatre came an evening with the feminists just around the corner from Ireland’s National. During the Monday meeting some absolutely shocking statistics were presented on the gender imbalance in the top ten (all government sponsored) theatres and theatre companies around Ireland during the last ten years. But some hope was indeed restored for me on Tuesday night when I sat down to watch Test Dummy, an original Irish play written by a woman, performed by a woman, directed and even produced by a woman.

Theatre Upstairs in association with WeGetHighOnThis Collective presents Caitriona Daly’s new play – Test Dummy, a beautiful but ever so heartbreaking example of modern worldwide female image created by decades and generations of hardcore patriarchy.

Test Dummy might be a very abstract piece in general but it’s in the detail where you find its uniqueness and meaningfulness. In addition to the captivating script, Caitriona Ennis masterfully creates her nameless character of multiple faces and experiences; and it’s in one of those socially disfigured faces that the members of the audience will be able to sadly recognise themselves: be they the victim or the predator.

Test Dummy also managed to challenge the physical space that Theatre Upstairs is. In order to be able to experience the play more profoundly, the audience is being seated on two sides (facing each other), while the stage lies right in between them. The Dummy appears to be trapped in between watching and judging her people.

According to Caitriona Daly’s Author’s Note, she wanted this piece to be “not necessarily understood but felt”. Thanks to the exquisite combination of absolutely haunting sound (by Carl Kennedy ), skillful set (by Laura Honan) and igniting lighting (by Conor Byrne and Shane Gill) designs in addition to Ennis’ breathtaking portrayal of the Dummy, Caitriona Daly’s intention was achieved quite nicely. Louise Lowe’s spot-on directing allows this piece to be both brutally honest and tense, as well as funny and humorous.

This roughly fifty minute piece flies by in an instant. Caitriona Ennis’ human Dummy with strong voice and bright eyes “is happy to oblige” and the audience is happily left satisfied with the piece that they’ve just… no, not seen but rather experienced. So, don’t be a Dummy yourself and get your lovely (male or female regardless) bum to Theatre Upstairs to witness what comes out when three talented theatre makers and a 50/50 gender balanced crew come together to create art. For more info or to book tickets:

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Theatre Upstairs: Venom So Sweet

It`s Halloween! It`s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can`t be seen
on any other night!


Wonderful news in store for those who appreciate high-quality theatre and are looking for something fun and quite unique to do on this Hallow’s Eve: Theatre Upstairs has reopened its doors. Being undoubtedly one of Dublin’s most atmospheric theaters, TUpstairs together with Little Shadow Theatre Co has entered the season of ghosts and ghouls with a venomously delicious treat – Venom So Sweet, written by Roger Gregg and directed by James O’Connor.

For those of you who are familiar with Roger’s previous work, this play will come as a bonus to his magnifficent styleized cabaret performances and saxophone playing delights. Venom So Sweet follows the story of a somewhat cowardish and not the best kind of human beings – Legion (portrayed by Gregg himself) – who in a deep western accent tells you his poisonus story of being a con-man empowered by the devilsnake inhabiting his soul from within rather than without. Roughly based on the life of Saopy Smith (a 19th century con-man from Georgia) and the horrible fate that so unfairly grasped the poor souls of Sand Creek indigens in 1864, Gregg took a few liberties with the history and added some colour and pitch to it.

In this one hour piece, Legion is joined by three beautiful companions: Jezebel Demon (played by Juliette Crosbie), Serpent Demon (played by Alicky Hess) and Sorceress Demon (played by Madi O’Carroll). They might be characters of few words but their presence is ominous on stage. Once too often I caught myself just watching them interact with each other and move about the stage.

Venom So Sweet is a show in its best composition. It has an absolutely magical ensemble of theatre professionals that takes care of not only carrying the story forward but also creates an incredible atmosphere of being in a different time and place all together. All four actors engage in the musical part of the play and create the sounds live on stage with the help of both props and a whole variety of musical instruments. The lighting design also is a huge impact on the overall mood. Be it the director’s or the lighting designer’s decision but some scenes are so perfectly framed that watching them gives an aesthetic pleasure. In the best traditions of a cabaret show, the actors are very interactive with the audience and make it feel like you are part of the plot; one more in a crowd of citizens imagined by Roger Gregg and his team.

I can’t think of a better choice to start your Hallowe’en adventure this year. Venom So Sweet is a real treat for all of you li’l trickers out there. Runs until  November 5th. For more info or to book tickets:

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Interview with Seanan McDonnell

Revolver, the new play by Sugar Coat Theatre Company, opened in Theatre Upstairs this Tuesday past. The play is in full swing now entertaining the audience and wowing the critics; and I got a great opportunity to interview Seanan McDonnell, who wrote the piece.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your previous writing experience. What kind of writer are
I’ve been writing fairly consistently since I was a tot and my writerly sensibility probably calcified around age 8 watching The Simpsons and reading X-Men comics. In 3rd class, I remember keeping a notebook of short stories that were a mix of low fantasy children’s adventures and Bible fanfic.
My reading interests are pretty evenly split between genre writing – science fiction, horror, a little crime – and literary fiction and when I’m writing, I’m a magpie of my own interests. The best writing builds to ‘moments’, which I realise is a word that’s both plain and vague, but you know the ones I mean: the explanation for how the heist was pulled off, the closing of a causal loop in a time travel story, the memory of a piece of fruit that triggers a character to reflect upon a string of poor decisions. Great genre writing and great literary writing tend to go about creating them in very different ways: the former, usually, through story construction and the latter, usually, through burrowing deeper and deeper into its characters’ minds. But they’re not mutually exclusive, my very favourite writing marries them, and so when I write, I hope to build those ‘moments’ similarly.
Do you sit in the rehearsal room a lot?
I like to be a minimal presence in the rehearsal room. When it come to plays, you’re working in a collaborative medium so really the only functional approach for a writer (who has no interest in directing or acting) is to hand it over to the creative team and hope that the common understanding of the text’s scale and tone is close enough to your own that you don’t end up interrupting performances with “That’s not how you’re meant to say that line!”
How was the idea of Revolver born? 
I can’t really remember; I began the play five years ago. I wrote the female part for Charlene Craig, whom I’ve known since college, and whom I’m lucky enough to have play the part in the production. She swears that it was born from a suggestion I made in my old flat in London that we should do a play together but I have no recollection of that conversation. Her memory is better than mine though and it does make for a better story.
I do remember returning to the premise in my head because it offered a sustainable way to dramatise a pretty-difficult-to-dramatise aspect of human behaviour: the way the content of our opinions are overwhelmingly contingent not on the truth but on the perceived benefit it’ll bring us in whatever social set-up we assign most value. If you want to write a play about envy, you can write envious characters; if you want to write a play about malice, you can write a play about people who post Game of Thrones spoilers on Facebook; but if you want to write a play about people whose sense of self is ever-shifting, it’s hard to write credibly. People don’t speak about that and people aren’t conscious of it. But if characters can reset their encounters, you can have them passionately assume a position on a topic in one scene and then passionately assume the opposite position in the next. So, it’s a neat way of minimising the friction between the play’s character work and the play’s dramatic momentum and a neat way of having you question the reliability of the accounts the characters offer of themselves.
What was the biggest challenge while writing Revolver? 
The biggest challenge was creating dramatic tension when the characters are resetting the plot every five minutes. The temptation to have the play be a shapeless, discontinuous mass was high. But after a while, you spot ways to construct the story so you’re taking advantage of the structure. There were opportunities to create intrigue around the premise, to play with the differing levels of knowledge between the characters and the audience, to give the action urgency because it could be undone at any moment, and the writing was about finding those.
The editing was a nightmare though. The first version was significantly way too long and any time you wanted to make a cut, it meant looking at the entirety of the play: you’d remove some insignificant moment from scene 2 and then remember it was necessary for setting up a big moment in scene 8. That happened a lot.
What makes Revolver different from other plays? 
It’s science fiction. There are plays with science fiction premises but they’re usually called ‘absurdist’ or ‘playful’; this is unambiguously a piece of ‘science fiction’ about a technological advance and its consequences. It’s also a romantic comedy. Like everybody, I’m a big fan of the ‘Before Sunset’ movies: they’re wistful and charming but most importantly, I think, they follow the humps and hollows of real conversations. They strike this cadence that you’re at ease with at once and that was something I wanted to recreate, in parts, here. So, it’s a sci-fi rom-com and I don’t know any other plays, really, that are that.
What would you identify as the main message of the play? What do you want people to be thinking/feeling when they leave the theatre? 
The main message is “Our sense of self is a shaky thing and we’ll turn to anything, including kamikaze romantic relationships, to stave that notion off” but I hope that emerges from the drama rather than sits atop it. I really don’t like didactic drama. I’d hope, as hopelessly bourgeois as it is to say it, that people have a good time. It’s a comedy so I hope they laugh. It’s got revelations so I hope they gasp. And for all their flaws, the play’s two characters are motivated by desperation more than anything so I hope there’s sympathy for them. Mostly, I want people to come out feeling like it was 65 minutes of their life well spent.
Revolver, written by Seanan McDonnell and directed by Matthew Ralli, runs in Theatre Upstairs until June 4th. For more info or to book tickets:

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Theatre Upstairs: Revolver


Unless you go through all the genuine angers you feel, both justified and unjustified, the feelings of love that you have will not have any legitimate base and will be at least partially false. Plus, eventually you will go crazy.
– Christopher Durang

You know that scene in Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy, where Bruce and Prudence go on a blind date with each other? And everything goes from bad to worse. All the words, that would have been better left out, were said at the most inappropriate times; all the bits and pieces of personal information that should have waited at least until the third date, were revealed without any thought given prior to opening one’s own mouth… And even if you don’t know Durang’s play, sure you would have recongised yourself in the above mentioned situation. We’ve all been on a date after (or during) which we considered the option of leaving the country and never coming back for the way we’ve completely embarrassed ourselves and ruined any chances of further happiness and life together.

Aodh (played by Colm O’Brien) and Bea (played by Charlene Craig) are also trying out their luck on the “romantic front” with the help of the magical website with a speaking-for-itself name everlasting.con. The difference is that Aodh and Bea don’t have one single chance to make a first impression, they have countless number of opportunities to wow each other for the first time… for there is a magical button that they can press at any point during the date in order to get back to the starting line. The memory of how the previous date went will be completely erased. The only side effect is that every time the button is pressed, the love birds suffer from a minor stroke. But what is a minor stroke when you get a freshly clean slate with someone you might possibly like… again.

Revolver, written by Seanan McDonnell and directed by Matthew Ralli, is a beautiful comedy with strong dialogue and an intriguing plot. McDonnell in his script rises a very interesting question: if we knew we had a second chance, would we be more inclined to reveal our true selves or would we try to pull off the most ridiculous lies to see if the other person will fall into the trap? Every time the button goes down, we witness the already known scenario but in a completely different light. With practically the same first date questions and answers, each time presented in a new perspective and at a new angle, the mood of each scene differs dramatically.

Both actors, Charlene Craig and Colm O’Brien, give a strong memorable performance. Their way of portraying Aodh and Bea, and truly making those two characters their own, is hugely enjoyable. Their ability to play the same old scenario each time in a different way and with the same amount of novelty and enthusiasm is simply admirable. With the perfect set (by Dylan Farrell) and lighting (by Teresa Nagel) design, Revolver is a compelling play to watch.

Revolver is a piece of sci-fi comedy that leaves a place for thought in one’s mind long after it’s over. In this play Sugar Coat Theatre has brought up a truly beautiful production that deserves to be seen and heard. Revolver runs in Theatre Upstairs until June 4th, for more info or to book tickets:

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Theatre Upstairs: Aisling’s Seven


Aisling's Seven 2016

Have you ever wanted to do something cool, so dangerously, unbelievably enviously cool? Like, let’s say, robbing a bank? Because, why not? It’s no secret everyone can do with a bit of extra cash (a couple of hundred of thousand of one of those stable hard currencies); we all also dream about living in a nice big house by the beach, in a place where the sky is always blue,the air is always fresh and gentle and the sun is just bathing you in its never-ending warmth… Somewhere like Rio, for example. Wouldn’t life then be just wonderful?

And that aside, how cool would the process itself of stealing the money be? A black balaclava – check, a black suit – check, a torch (because who doesn’t need a torch?) – check, a couple of really smooth yoga-ish slash kung-fu movements to manoeuvre along the red lasers (there probably won’t be any, but… well, you never know), the get-away car waiting outside. THE GET-AWAY CAR!

Even if you have never dreamt of it, sure you would have seen it in one of the numerous films on the subject. And I bet, you couldn’t help but imagine yourself being in place of the protagonist. Being just as he or she was: quick, smart and cool. So unbelievably and enviously cool.

Well… so did Ash (played by Susan Barrett) and her boyfriend Dan (played by Stephen Gorman).  Ash occupies the absolutely boring and unexciting position of a bank clerk. Day after day, costumer after costumer… life doesn’t throw anything even a bit exciting into Aisling’s direction. Living in a small rented apartment in Ranelagh, our protagonist dreams of a better life somewhere sunny and hot. She even knows how to get where she wants to be: she just has to rob the Central Bank in Dublin city center. She even has a person “on the inside”: herself. She conveniently already works there. Being a security guard in a casino, Aisling’s boyfriend Dan enthusiastically agrees to help out with the “technical side” of the deal. All they need is to find the other five “contributors” to help them with their little plan. Five highly-professional volunteers who won’t ask any questions. The couple is even ready to share the stolen profit.

Ash and Dan are serious about what they are doing; they are so serious, they even have a wall board, on which they’ve drawn their dream house (it’s always good to have a clear motivation, it helps to keep moving towards the set goal). In addition to the wall, they have a 12 step plan on how to rob a bank! It’s all there on the wall.

Everything looks great and makes perfect sense. To Ash and Dan. But not to Áine (played by Sinead O’Brien), Ash’s somewhat more sensible and down-to earth sister-psychologist. Áine’s good intentions of helping her sister out start getting on Ash’s nerves. She doesn’t need her sister’s help, she has the perfect plan for her perfect future.

And just when it looks like nothing can go wrong…

Aisling’s Seven (The Central Bank Heist), written and directed by Cian O’Ceallachain, is a wonderful easy-watch, perfect for a rainy (or sunny) Friday (or any other day of the week) afternoon (or matinee on Friday and Wednesday). It’s funny. It’s actually very very funny. There are loads of great plays being staged in Dublin nowadays, but it’s really difficult to find a production where the jokes would actually make you laugh instead of simply chuckle.

The plot is far from being original but it’s the beautifully shaped characters, the wonderfully written setting and brilliant performances given by all three actors that make Aisling’s Seven really stand out.

Presented by Underdog Theatre Productions, Aisling’s Seven is the perfect treat for a relaxing and entertaining night out. Closing on Saturday, 23rd of April, there is still a chance to catch it before it ends. Do not miss your opportunity to get some first-hand information on how to plan a bank robbery. Oops, I shall say no more. All the needed info on how to proceed:

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Interview with David Gilna

“What a play about 1916 means to you? What does it mean to you as an individual; not about the state, not about the country, not about the political agenda. It’s all about how it’s going to affect you.”

After opening this Tuesday past, The Unsung Hero is in its full swing and will be showing in Theatre Upstairs all the way till Saturday, April 2nd.

In the meantime, I had an opportunity to sit down for a chat with David Gilna, the writer of The Unsung hero. The story that had not been told before David Gilna decided to write it. Two people, Michael and Nannie, who were omitted from the pages of history books, two unsung heroes who have finally received the voice they’ve been waiting for for a whole centenary.

David Gilna is writer who is inspired by people: people who pass him on the streets, people who sit with him on the bus, people who sit at the tables in the cafes where David writes. Gilna’s path as a playwright is far from a simple one, but it’s the one which can without any doubt be referred to as “a blessing in disguise”.

Originally from Swords, David has become really interested in performing arts when a friend of his introduced him to acting by bringing him to DCU Drama, where Gilna fell in love with  the world of acting, rehearsing and theatre in general. In order to pursue his passion, after graduating school he went on to continue his studies at The National Performing Arts School. Having done a couple of films, ads and radio plays, David still wasn’t entirely convinced that a whole career can grow out of it. Nevertheless, he wanted to give it a try so he enrolled in the Theatre Studies course in Colaiste Dhulaigh.

Some time after, David was in an accident that put him into a coma, the recovery after which wasn’t an easy one. David started having difficulties communicating with people. And one of the specialists advised him to write about how he felt in order to verbalize the situation and help oneself to come to terms with it. That was the first step not only on David’s way of recovery but also in his career as a playwright. David’s first play “Gift of Lightning” was born out of the notes he made during his recovering process. After its Dublin debut, the production went on to be staged in London’s West End, where it got a five star review from The Times.

Having known Michael Scott, the director of The Unsung Hero,for more than twelve years now, David says he is one of the best mentors Gilna has had the pleasure to work with. Scott has brought the best out of Gilna both as an actor and as a writer.

Always wanting to learn as much as possible, always wanting to develop and progress, David acknowledges that he has been lucky to work and being mentored by some of Ireland’s best theatre professionals.

Gilna’s second play “The bedsit Window” was about the reality of the world of arts and the harshness of life. The play is set to show people how cruel and unfair real life can be; to show the audience the side of being and living that people don’t usually like talking about.”There is a bit of craic, a bit of banter, but it’s a tough world”, says David.

A play about Love, Freedom and Duty. 

The Unsung Hero is Gilna’s third play. Having known quite closely the O’Rahilly’s family, in particular Michael Joseph’s son Aodogan O’Rahilly, David learnt the story of the 1916 Easter Rising from first hands. He remembers himself being a 6-7 year old boy, sitting on Aodogan’s (one of Michael’s sons) lap and asking about the massive painting the family had on their house wall. Upon questioning who the paining was of, David learnt that it was The O’Rahilly father, Michael Joseph, who died on the back of Moore Street while he was fighting for the freedom of Ireland.

It wasn’t only the image that stuck in David’s head, but also the unfairness he felt when learning Irish history at school: he realised there was almost no mention of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly in the books.

As a playwright David could consider himself quite lucky; he didn’t only have the access to the family archives, but he also had an opportunity to talk to The O’Rahilly’s family in order to receive a somewhat more insightful, more private, more personal stories filled with warm memories, emotions and colours as opposed to simple dry facts. And it probably was because David personally knew the O’Rahillys that allowed him not only to write a play but fill it with a deeper meaning and show the humanity of it. He didn’t just want to write a story about O’Rahilly – the forgotten hero, he wanted to give a voice to Nannie and tell her story, as well. Even though in the shadows, she was just as much part of that battle in 1916 as her husband was. “Six months pregnant, having to raise a family on her own, Nannie is the true unsung hero of this story”,  David says.

Head in books, letters and newspapers, David deeply enjoyed the challenging process of writing The Unsung Hero. He tells me that he had read so much about Pearse, Connolly, Markievicz and other people involved in the Easter Rising that he actually felt like he personally knew them. And even though it was crucial for him to get all the facts right, he also wanted the story to sound fresh and make the language alive and authentic to the time when the action took place.

Unfortunately, not everything does the final cut. During the research, David has discovered a number of interesting facts about The O’Rahillys. For example: Michael taught Nannie Irish and she taught him French; so, only those two languages were allowed to be spoken in their house. Or: After his father’s death, Aodogan wouldn’t buy anything English at all. Or: The fact that Nannie O’Rahilly wouldn’t allow any of the letter she exchanged with her husband to be published while she was alive; even now, years since her passing, there are still letters unavailable to the public eye.

Another thing that really touched David’s heart was the fact one of the most notable of Irish poets, W B Yeats, wrote a poem called “Sing of The O’Rahilly” about Michael Joseph. Written more than 20 years after the Easter Rising, it was one of the bard’s last poems. And that was one of the reasons why Gilna decided to mention Yeats and include one of his poems (“He wishes for the cloths of heaven”) into the play.

Being a playwright, who enjoys sitting in during the rehearsals and come to every performance, David is happy that the actors playing Michael and Nannie (Conor Delaney and Roseanna Purcell) have done justice to their characters. Having worked on the play for two years now, David says that even still he gets something new, something different every time he sees it being performed. “Always have your editor’s hat on”, says Gilna.

Bringing The Unsung Hero to a venue like Theatre Upstairs, which is a very intimate space that allows the audience to feel deep inside the action occurring on stage, has a location significance in itself. When Michael Joseph arrived to O’Connell Str on that Easter Sunday, he didn’t only park his car around the corner from Eden Quay, but he also walked right down this building and took right to get to GPO. It’s also here, where he co-founded the Irish Volunteers Army. A century has past, but these walls that saw the Easter Rising, that once were bathed in soldiers’ blood, that heard the whispers and the talks, that hided one too many wounded and nearly dead in between them, are still very much standing and supporting Irish citizens.

A moment in history that shall never be forgotten. The Unsung Hero runs in Theatre Upstairs till April, 2nd. For more info or to book tickets:

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Filed under David Gilna, in conversation, Interview with, Theatre Upstairs