Wild Sky – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review by Frank L.
Written by Deirdre Kinahan
The immediate genesis of this play was a call from Geraldine Bailey, Meath County Council Arts Officer, to Deirdre Kinahan commissioning her on behalf of the Council to write a play in commemoration of Easter 1916. Kinahan, in the excellent programme notes, expresses the privilege that the commission bestowed on her but also when she considered the enormity of the task her initial bewilderment, as she “hadn’t a clue. So what to do … READ”. Impressively the programme notes contains a list of “some books [she] found relevant”. The result is a work of fiction based loosely on three individuals from County Meath, a young man from Oristown who fought in the GPO and walked back home without being arrested, Kathleen McKenna from Oldcastle who went to set dancing classes of a Sunday and became the secretary to Arthur Griffiths and the poet Francis Ledwidge who was “a volunteer, an amateur actor, socialist, lover, a road-builder and republican” who was in 1917 killed at Ypres. She familiarised herself with “their lives and with the new ideas of socialism, of feminism, of nationalism that blew in on the wind and changed the course of a nation.” It is from these three stories and her wide ranging reading that Kinahan creates “Wild Sky” which is as she says pure fiction. She humbly acknowledges that the title is not her own but comes from a poem written by “her new friend” Francis Ledwidge for Thomas McDonagh who was executed after 1916.
Tom Farrell (Ian Toner) is the young man who goes to Dublin to fight but he also is the young man who wants to be the lover of Josie Dunne (Caitriona Ennis) who steps dances and works in Macken’s shop and “Mr Macken was delighted with me because I caught onto everything quick”. The third element is actor Mary Murray who sings and chants various songs throughout the piece and as reference is made in the play to Yeats “Cathleen Ni Houlihan” she is with her songs the personification of Ireland as a nation in all of its complexities.
The play is simply executed which adds strength to Kinahan’s creation. While many words such as “Moore Street”, “The O’Rahilly”, “John Redmond” and “G.P.O” carry within them an ingrained history, Kinahan has created in “Wild Sky” a work of art which while relating to the complexities of 1916 raises within it “the forgotten voices of those who have walked these roads before us.” Meath County Council’s inspiring initiative as realised by Kinahan and the artistic team should be celebrated with many performances throughout Ireland. It is a work of art worthy of its commission and to be celebrated broadly.