Revolution 1916 – Ambassador Theatre – Review by Fran Winston
The Ambassador theatre, Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin 1
Ongoing from February 27th. Opens 10am Daily.
Adult tickets from €15. OAP from €12. Under 16 from €10 – Tickets available from ticketmaster.ie
Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island with no access to TV, print or social media it can’t have escaped your notice that this year marks the centenary of the Easter Rising which would eventually lead much of our Island breaking free of the shackles of English rule and becoming a republic. Obviously there are many events and exhibitions planned to mark the occasion. What makes this one stand out is that it is actually right in the heart of the area that events of that fateful weekend occurred. Indeed it is also the site where the men who took part in the Rising signed up for the Irish volunteers three years earlier.
Telling the story of the Rising and its long reaching aftermath through a mixture of artefacts (including Michael Collins actual car), newly commissioned artworks, video, recreations and tours, this is designed to educate and fascinate. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about the events you will find something to surprise you and the tour follows the proper timeline rather than jumping from event to event for dramatic effect. Walking past some fabulous art of the women of the revolution you are confronted with a video documenting events before heading to another area where large and colourful backdrops tell the story in Irish and English as you browse some of the real possessions and mementos of the people involved all sitting in glass classes.
One floor down and there is a recreation of the area in Kilmainham Jail where the rebel leaders were executed and poignantly it has a single chair representative of the fact that an already dying James Connolly was carried out on a stretcher and sat on a chair to be shot. It is on this floor that you will find Michael Collins actual revolver and his car and a whole other section dedicated to the hunger strikers who died in the 1980s protesting British Rule.
However the most fascinating thing in this area is what at first glance appears to be a hole in the floor. Look a bit closer and you will see that it is covered in glass and your gaze leads down to a tunnel – one of the real tunnels that was dug out and used over the course of the rebellion. Its sheer depth is overwhelming and it is a timely reminder that you have been quite literally walking in the footsteps of many of the men and women who took part in the fight for Ireland’s freedom.
If you have kids who would prefer a nice colourful snapshot of events rather than a long lecture then this is a perfect family day out. Not just aimed at families though, adults will appreciate the depth of research that has gone into this and the gravitas and respect with which the subject matter is treated.
A particular highlight is the amazing bronze sculptor by actor and artist Stuart Dunne depicting Molly O’Reilly bravely raising the flag on Easter Sunday. The word breathtaking is thrown about a lot but you will literally gasp at the magnitude and magnificence of this (although I have no idea how they got it in to the building.)
In a period where every Tom, Dick and Harry will be peddling some sort of 1916 tribute this is definitely one that is worth checking out for its authenticity, attention to detail and sheer breath of information.
Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland.