Outrage review – passion, idealism and disillusionment in Ireland’s revolutionary years | Theatre


Civil war brings devastation to one close-knit family in Deirdre Kinahan’s latest history play for Fishamble theatre company. In a production that presents conflicting viewpoints in kaleidoscopic form, we see how the bonds between two sisters, and between husband and wife, are pulled apart under extreme duress.

Commissioned as part of Ireland’s Decade of Centenaries programme, it focuses on the period from the end of the war of independence in 1921 and the truce that followed, to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that precipitated the bitter Irish civil war. While the opening scenes are necessarily heavy on exposition, director Jim Culleton and the tremendous cast succeed in balancing the factual background with vivid, gripping drama.

Based on Kinahan’s research into military archives, the central characters of two Dublin women, Nell (Mary Murray) and her sister Alice (Caitríona Ennis) were inspired by an amalgam of several women’s testimonies, from the pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty sides. In interwoven dialogue, Nell, Alice and Alice’s husband, PJ, (Naoise Dunbar) tell their story of idealism, passion and disillusionment, shifting between past and present, narration and enactment.

Caitríona Ennis and Naoise Dunbar.
Tremendous … Caitríona Ennis and Naoise Dunbar. Photograph: Patrick Redmond

Staged across a warehouse in Dublin’s docks, designer Maree Kearns’ set, Kevin Smith’s lighting and Carl Kennedy’s sound composition create a fluid performance space that evokes a barricade, burning buildings, or a makeshift office where Alice dispatches bulletins on the latest atrocities.

Drawing on recent work by historians and sociologists documenting the sexual violence and abuse experienced by women during these revolutionary years, this unflinching production helps to bring previously hidden histories to the surface, inviting us to trace horrific legacies of the civil war in the decades that followed.

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