BY SEÁN P. FEENY
A NEW play telling the story of the 1916 Rising in a very unique ‘Vaudeville’ way, starring a young Letterkenny actor in his first professional role and choreographed by a well-known West Donegal man, closes this weekend after its very first run.
The Rising, which comes to a close at the 120-seat Powerscourt Theatre in Dublin on Saturday, is written and directed by Joe O’Byrne and choreographed by Gaoth Dobhair native and former principal dancers with Riverdance, Breandán de Gallaí.
In the new play, the audience can relive the days of the 1916 Rising through the eyes of two friendly adversaries, O’Brien, a Catholic played by professional Irish dancer Nick O’Connell, and McKeague, a Protestant, played by Letterkenny man John Ruddy.
They tell this story together using their own ‘agreed’ script, though they don’t see eye to eye on the historical significance of the events at all and therefore are permanently in conflict.
Their story is told in a vaudeville manner, with the clever use of fun, song, dance and a lot of action throughout as they perform a blow by blow account of the Rising and the events that led to it, including, by way of interludes, World War I.
Breandán has hailed the young Letterkenny actor’s performance as ‘amazing’.
“This is John’s first real professional role and he has just been amazing, there is nothing he can’t do, as he jumps from his main role into lots of different characters and plays the trumpet,” he said.
John gained experience working mainly with the Letterkenny Music and Drama Group, most notably winning numerous awards with The 39 Steps. Earlier this year he made the move to Dublin to pursue a professional career in acting.
Breandán began working with director O’Byrne on The Rising after being introduced to him by fellow dance academic, Deirdre Mulrooney.
“Joe was looking for a dancer who would be able to act and Nick, whom I have used a lot in principal roles in my shows (Noctú, The Right Of Spring), was one of the dancers I put forward to audition. Nick is very expressive in his movement and I thought he would be ideal.”
Reviews for The Rising have been very positive and both actors have shown to be exciting new talent with their commitment to their respective roles.
Breandán said both actors have shown great ability in their first professional acting roles. “They only had three and a half weeks preparation for a one and a half-hour long performance, with a lot of script and vaudeville-esque performances of different characters and using a lot of different props. What they have achieved is just incredible and I am living the experience vicariously through them,” he laughed.
The Gaoth Dobhair man said he has enjoyed his experience working with O’Byrne as choreographer noting that they will definitely continue to work together.
He said: “It has been a real learning curve for me, and I was really chuffed to be asked to work with him (Joe). I have always had a great appreciation and passion for theatre and I did a lot of it during my time at Pobalscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola.
“I learned a lot from Joe’s process and how he works and it was a real lesson for me in how to create great theatre; I’m sure we will work together on other projects.”
Breandán said he would love to see The Rising performed in Donegal. “Obviously we have the strong Donegal connection, but a regional theatre like An Grianán in Letterkenny would be the right size, so John and Nick could let their performance breathe.”
THE world’s stage will come to Dungloe tonight (Saturday) for a first class performance of Riverdance as the finale...