To Have To Shoot Irishman is touring nationally but happily, for us finds itself holed up in Clapham Common at the Omnibus Theatre.
Omnibus continues to present thought-provoking work of a high standard and in recent times, with a Celtic focus.
Playwright, Lizzie Nunnery has written a compelling drama that captures the dilemma of any insurgency; broken dreams, moral dilemmas, exalted egos, self-loathing, shattered communities and fallen heroes. Self-determination is a messy business and such ideas were poetically crafted by Nunnery and skillfully delivered by an experienced and talent company. Nunnery exposes the unsettling drive for freedom that cannot find breath without peace and yet peace can find no place without conflict. The struggle for freedom is fraught with complexities. The disappointed wife, the foolish idealist or the principled soldier are all victims one way or another and suffer at the hands not of the visionaries but of the bullies, bigots and bullets.
Director Gemma Kerr creates a fluid production and fuses the folk songs, monologues and duologues together with imagination bringing out the emotional crux of the piece. Designer Rachel Rooney manages to create at once an abstract setting while at the same time suggests enough realism to capture home or confinement. Cluttered, broken and ram-shackled – such a set seemed to reflect the struggles of those who roamed around it. However, it is to the company the plaudits must go for their strong performances that are so well sustained as they bring to the fore the idea there is no gain without pain. Hanna, our suffragette feminist, is mother wife and activist and is played with great authority and sensitivity by Elinor Lawless. Her performance is captivating, her storytelling intense, her singing sincere and her delivery rings with authenticity. She is well supported by Russell Richardson. His deft performance catches the breath with his endeavour to push for truth and transparency. The piece was confidently delivered with passion moving from scene to scene with ease. The monologues direct to the audience were slick and heartfelt. Particularly the young optimistic soldier’s (played by Robbie O’Neill) whose growing conscience is tested by the idealist, Frank who might make him reconsider the value of conflict and violence.
Almanac Arts is a company that explores social history and storytelling traditions. Their production does them proud and offers an absorbing review of the Easter uprisings. But this is not a play set in aspic as it resonates for our times as we rising militarism or terrorism take hold and the chaos of conflict splits families, communities and of course governments.
To Have to Shoot Irishmen is on at the Clapham Omnibus until 20th October, before embarking on a national tour. For tickets and more information, visit their website.