Rebel Rebel – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review
Devised by Robbie O’Connor and Aisling O’Mara, Directed by Louise Lowe
Performed by Aonghus Óg McAnally and Aisling O’Mara
Mar 21 – Apr 16, 2016 | 1pm
This play was part of the Dublin Fringe Festival last year and was developed in association with Anu, who delve deep into the archives to create theatrical experiences associated with historical events, the consequences of which still reverberate. In this vein, last year Anu created “Pals”, the story of the ill-fated brigade of young mostly middle class Irish youths who were cannon fodder for the disastrous 1915 Gallipoli campaign in the First World War. In this production the time is less than twelve months later. Sean Connolly and Helena Molony are both keen members of various organisations which were attempting to bring fundamental change to Ireland. They were on the side which had lost patience with parliamentary procedures to effect those changes. Both had acted upon the stage of the Abbey Theatre. Both were to take part actively in the Easter Rising.
The auditorium of Bewley’s Café Theatre is converted into a theatre in the round for this production. On arrival, Helena Maloney (Aisling O’Mara)) is lying on the floor making the occasional groan and reciting a tongue twister. She is clothed in a camisole and while the audience is gathering she gradually makes herself look “decent” by the time the play begins. The usual announcements are a little subverted in that they inform the audience that they are in the Abbey Theatre at a production of Caitlin ni Houlihan. There are some lines from Yeats portentous play during the performance which provides a wider theatrical context. However it is the story of the lives of Sean Connolly (Aonghus Óg McAnally) and Helena Maloney as they intertwine in their careers on the Abbey stage, their personal lives and their participation in the events leading up to and during Easter 1916 which drives the plot.
Aisling O’Mara reveals Helena O’Mara to be a woman of great passion and power. She plays her with immense presence and at times intense rage fuelled by the limitations placed upon her by being a woman in 1916. Aonghus Óg McAnally’s Sean Connolly is more of a gentle giant, level headed and a realist who was conscious of the imminent mortal risks he was about to undertake. They are two distinctly diverse characters who unite in a common goal. Their partnership makes sense.
This production presents a glimpse into two lives who were closely involved in the events surrounding Easter 1916. However because neither were famous their contribution is often overlooked or forgotten with the passage of time. Rebel, Rebel restores their stories to the pantheon. Their hopes and fears are here on display and it is a valuable experience to hear what they were.
“Presented in association with ANU Productions, first produced as show in a Bag 2015 – a partnership between Fishamble: The New Play Company, Irish Theatre Institute and Tiger Dublin Fringe.”