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Jul 4th

New Autumn Season at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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The new Autumn Season of the Finborough Theatre entails new writing, unique rediscoveries and music theatre.

The season features five brand new plays – a 60th anniversary season from the National Youth Theatre including new plays by two Olivier Award-nominated playwrights and the first ever stage production of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist; as well as two world premieres about the refugee and immigrant experience from award-winning North American dramatists. The Finborough also presents a unique rediscovery – the first UK production in nearly 90 years of Noël Coward's Home Chat; and the UK premiere of the hit Off Broadway musical Adding Machine: A Musical.

The new season opens with a new writing from the National Youth Theatre, playing 9–27 August 2016, celebrating the NYT's 60th anniversary: James Fritz's The Fall, Bola Agbaje’s Bitches, and the first ever stage production of Mohsin Hamid’s Man Booker Shortlisted The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Noël Coward’s Home Chat receives its first UK production since its premiere in 1927 in September, running alongside the world premiere of the award-winning The Great Divide by acclaimed new American playwright Alix Sobler.

The UK premiere of Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt’s multi-award winning Off-Broadway musical Adding Machine: A Musical, based on the play by Elmer Rice, plays from 28 September–22 October 2016, concurrently with the UK debut of multi-award-winning Canadian playwright Anusree Roy’s Trident Moon.

You can also see Finborough productions elsewhere with My Eyes Went Dark at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in August, and Operation Crucible at the Sheffield Crucible in September.

For full information, please visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Jul 4th

Autumn at the Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin

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A host of theatrical experiences and creative projects are set to fill Battersea Arts Centre’s building this autumn as the doors are thrown open to spaces that have been redeveloped as part of a nine-year phased capital project, realised with Stirling Prize winning architects Haworth Tompkins.


THEATRE 

Neverland 
| Tom Penn & Battersea Arts Centre | 7-16 October

Children aged 1-3 and their adults are invited to step into a white tented den to play among dazzling 360 degree video projections. Footage flits between real and animated scenes of nature, from forest canopies to sea beds, accompanied by an original score. Made in collaboration with Little Bulb Theatre associate Tom Penn, this multisensory experience is a celebration of imagination, guided by two multilingual performers. Building on the success of previous interactive family theatre productions, including The Great Escape (A Borrower’s Tale) (2010) and Town Hall Cherubs (2015), Neverland will premiere at Battersea Arts Centre and tour to children’s theatre festivals, including TakeOff Festival in Durham, this autumn.

A House Repeated | Seth Kriebel | 18-29 October

Inspired by the early text-based computer games of the 70s and 80s, A House Repeated returns to pit audience teams against one another to unlock the secrets of Battersea Arts Centre’s labyrinthine old town hall. Blurring the line between reality and fantasy, creator Seth Kriebel has conjured a world of half-real and half-imagined spaces inspired in part by the building's original and modern-day architectural plans. Together with collaborator Zoe Bouras, Seth guides audiences on an imaginary adventure from the comfort of their seats.

 

COMING SOON
London Stories: Made by Migrants 
| Battersea Arts Centre | 4-26 November 
Spearheading the new BAC Moving Museum programme in November is an evolution of London Stories, following the success of the first festival in 2013. Real life stories of arriving in the city and of trying to make it a new home will be told people who lived themIntimate audiences groups will hear tales across a warren of spaces and visit an installation of storytellers’ sentimental objects that reflect the city's history of migration. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.


The Night That Autumn Turned To Winter 
| Little Bulb Theatre | 3 December – 8 January
Hot on the heels of launching Battersea Arts Centre’s new Courtyard theatre, this Christmas Little Bulb Theatre will delight families with a music-filled nut gathering and nest building show, full of wintry surprises.



CREATIVE PROJECTS
The academic year kicks-off with two creative projects that got off the ground thanks to pilot cycles funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

 

Agents of Creative Change | Battersea Arts Centre | September – October
Battersea Arts Centre is match-making artists and third sector professionals from the local area as part of the second cycle of Agents of Creative Change, supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. The programme uses Scratch to test out ways of using creativity in settings as varied as the police force, children’s homes and probation service with ideas shared at the end of October.


The Agency | Battersea Arts Centre, Contact & People’s Palace Projects | September – April
Creative entrepreneur project, The Agency, also restarts with the support of the Big Lottery Fund. A new cohort of young people from the local Winstanley Estate will be recruited over the summer to develop social initiatives based on the needs of their communities. Following an event held at the Houses of Parliament in May with Fiona Mactaggart MP and Jane Ellison MP, The Agency is continuing to grow vital networks and community relationships to strengthen initiatives from the first three cycles and beyond.

 

Further information: https://www.bac.org.uk

May 24th

Rosemary Branch Theatre under New Leadership from Summer 2016

By Carolin Kopplin

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Artistic directors Cecilia Darker and Cleo Sylvestre step down after 20 years of running the award-winning Rosemary Branch Theatre in London.

 

Genevieve Taricco and Scarlett Plouviez Comnas of interactive performance company Unattended Items named as their successors

 

Quote from Cecilia Darker: ‘It's been an action-packed 20 years and we are terribly proud of playing  a small part in so many marvellous productions and performances. But there are other things in our lives that now need our attention, and having known Scarlett Plouviez Comnas since she joined us as an intern during her university years, we just knew that if she felt it was the right thing for her to be doing, that we would be passing the theatre into very safe hands.  Luckily Scarlett felt this was the right project for her and her co-director Genevieve to get their teeth into. They are both passionate about the part theatre has to play in contemporary society and are bursting with ideas. We look forward to watching them breathe their own life into The Rosie and we have every confidence that their ethos and practical skills will continue to move it forward and retain its name as one of the best little theatres in north London.’

 

2016 marks the 20 year anniversary of Cecilia Darker and Cleo Sylvestre as artistic directors of the Rosemary Branch Theatre. After two decades of extraordinary and committed stewardship, they have now both decided to take a back seat in order to pursue new adventures. Interactive performance company Unattended Items take over as resident company from mid-June 2016, led by artistic directors Genevieve Taricco and Scarlett Plouviez Comnas.

 

Address            Rosemary Branch Theatre

                         2 Shepperton Road, London, N1 3DT

Box Office        0207 704 6665

Website            www.rosemarybranchtheatre.co.uk

Twitter              @RosemaryBranch

 

               

May 13th

New Season at the Orange Tree Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Paul Miller's third season as Artistic Director of the Orange Tree Theatre features the first major revivals of Caryl Churchill's Blue Heart and Somerset Maugham's last play Sheppey, plus the English language premiere of Roland Schimmelpfennig's Winter Solstice, Zoe Cooper's new play Jess and Joe Forever and Mac Barnett's children's story Extra Yarn adapted by Elinor Cook for Christmas The Theatre's work will also be seen in 25 other towns and cities across England this autumn.

The season opens on 12 September (previews 8 September) with the world premiere of Zoe Cooper's play Jess and Joe Forever, a Farnham Maltings and Orange Tree Theatre co-production, directed by Derek Bond. The play is about friendship, growing up and trying to fit in, set across several summer holidays. Nicola Coughlan and Rhys Isaac-Jones play Jess and Joe. It will then go on tour.

The first major revival of Caryl Churchill's Blue Heart, first seen in 1997 at the Royal Court. David Mercatali returns to the Orange Tree following his production of Alice Birch's Little Light to direct this double bill of theatrically inventive plays Heart's Desire and Blue Kettle. It is a co-production with Tobacco Factory Theatres where it plays from 22 September - 1 October before opening at the Orange Tree on 18 October (previews 13 October).

Paul Miller directs the first major production of Somerset Maugham's final play Sheppey, opening 28 November (previews 24 November) plays on the idea of 'charity begins at home' when an unassuming East End barber wins the lottery.

Mac Barnett's enchanting children's story Extra Yarn about a little girl who transforms her world through knitting is adapted by Elinor Cook with music by Tom Deering for the festive period. Opening on 19 December, it's directed by Imogen Bond.

The English language premiere of Winter Solstice by prolific German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig will be directed by Ramin Gray in a co-production with Actors Touring Company, opening on 18 January 2017 (previews 12 January). A family Christmas is interrupted by a surprise visitor in a play that looks at the resurgence of the far right in Europe.

As previously announced, following the return of Paul Miller's production of Terence Rattigan's comedy French Without Tears to the Orange Tree from 30 June - 30 July, this autumn the production will tour with English Touring Theatre. Venues are now confirmed as Exeter, Harrogate, Barnstaple, Cheltenham, Doncaster, Oldham, Coventry, Poole and Huddersfield.

Take Part, the OT’s education and participation projects, span every generation from those in Primary Schools to residents of care homes, both within our local community and 12 surrounding boroughs. Our co-production with Flute Theatre brings their production of The Tempest for young people with autism from 25 October - 4 November, as well as our own Shakespeare Up Close production of Twelfth Night (18 - 25 March) aimed at secondary school students. Plus the OT is part of widespread projects Fun Palace (2 October) and London Children's Bookswap (11 February). 

There will be relaxed performances for Jess & Joe Forever, Extra Yarn and Twelfth Night in addition to audio-described performances of all productions.

Public booking opens Thu 19 May at 10.00am

Box Office 020 8940 3633

More info: orangetreetheatre.co.uk

May 1st

Battersea Arts Centre - A Year On From the Grand Hall Fire

By Carolin Kopplin

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The Battersea Arts Centre, one of the creative hubs in south London, welcoming over 160,000 people to its building each year, announced ambitious plans for its future. After a devastating fire one year ago that destroyed one third of the historic building, including the main auditorium, the Grand Hall is to be restored to its original look while making improvements to the technical infrastructure for future performances. The plaster ceiling that was destroyed will be replaced with a lattice design, recreating the one-of-a-kind plasterwork arc lost to the fire whilst revealing the 15m high apex of the roof above, thereby enabling better acoustics and allowing rigging and lighting through the ceiling. The courtyard will become an open air theatre for summer shows.

Battersea Arts Centre announced it would be launching a moving museum, a collection of artefacts and pieces that will be taken to schools and libraries around Wandsworth to share the heritage of the borough with residents in workshops and talks and to inspire new activities and iterations of those already delivered by Battersea Arts Centre including family workshops, heritage festivals, interactive installations and performances, a digital archive, talks and tours.

Spearheading the BAC Moving Museum programme in November is the return of London Stories. Following the success of the first festival in 2013, this time storytellers will share past and present tales of arriving in London from other parts of the country or the world and of trying to make this city a new home. Stories will be inspired by sentimental objects and shared with intimate audiences across a warren of candlelit rooms. The stories and objects will contribute to a temporary museum of memories, anecdotes and artefacts that shine a light on the city's history of migration.

In August and September the musical series live music will return when Borderless will take over the Council Chamber as an alternative celebration of world togetherness alongside the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Programmed by GOAT Music, the series will feature artists from around the globe and some of the best UK talent. Line-up announced 11 May.

A new "Creative Hub" (working title) is set to be launched in 2018 when the Grand Hall reopens. The hub addresses a need for affordable workspaces in Wandsworth, where nearly 3,000 start-ups were registered last year, and provides a bridge between subsidised arts and the creative industries. It will house a variety of early-stage businesses, from furniture makers to website developers, with spaces allocated through a membership system. Each hub member will provide two hours of business support each month for emerging entrepreneurs coming through Battersea Arts Centre programmes such as The Agency, which supports young people from local housing estates to develop their own social enterprises.

The centre also announced the title of the next season as Cash, Capitalism and Corporations in February and March 2017. Red Shedwill sit at the heart of the season – the third part of comedian and campaigner Mark Thomas’ autobiographical trilogy, based on his return to the Labour club in Wakefield where he first performed. Commentators, academics and activists will also be brought together from across the political spectrum as part of a varied programme of talks and debates.

Apr 25th

The Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968 Wins Theatre Book Prize

By Carolin Kopplin

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Last year’s best book about British theatre, according to the judges of this year’s Theatre Book Prize, was a fascinating study based on the files from the Lord Chamberlain’s Office now held in the British Library.

At a gathering of people from theatre and the book world on April 22nd, held in the historic rooms of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, distinguished actress Dame Siân Phillips presented the prize to Steve Nicholson for The Censorship of British Drama 1900-1968 (University of Exeter Press), a story conflict and connivance involving Royal officialdom, theatre managers and some of the key dramatists of the twentieth century. Critics have described it as “forensic and fascinating” and called Nicholson “a scholar who writes with lucidity, wit, humane intelligence and grace of mind. There is no jargon in his pages, but much glorious hilarity.”

L to R Judges Sam Walters, Sarah Hemming, Colin Chambers, winner Steve Nicholson, Dame Siân Phillips, STR Chairman Michael Gaunt

Sam Walters, Sarah Hemming, Colin Chambers, Steve Nicholson, Dame Siân Philips, Michael Gaunt, and Howard Loxton - Photograph by Vicki Holland

In remarks by the judges leading up to the presentation Colin Chambers, called it “The final volume of a terrific and important series in which Nicholson delivers his original research into the practice of theatre with characteristic enthusiasm. His detailed account of how theatre and the society it reflects interact is seen through the prism of censorship.”

Author Nicholson, who is Professor in Twentieth Century and Contemporary Theatre at the University of Sheffield, wins after being short-listed for this prize in previous years. The judges were Sam Walters, theatre director, founder and until recently artistic director of the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. Sarah Hemming, theatre critic for the Financial Times. Colin Chambers, Professor Emeritus Kingston University, formerly Literary Manager at the Royal Shakespeare Company and author among many books of the winner of the first Theatre Book Prize, awarded in 1997 for his The Life of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent. They were chaired by critic Howard Loxton, representing the Society for Theatre Research. 

More information on the Society for Theatre Research here.

Apr 15th

Summer Season at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

The Summer Season of the Finborough Theatre features three world premieres of new writing including the return of the THEGREATWAR100 series, a rediscovery from John Osborne and, continuing the theatre's commitment to Canadian writing, two plays about politics – a classic and a new play, both in their European premieres.

The Finborough Theatre opens its Summer Season with the world premiere of a new play, Stone Face by Eve Leigh running 17 May–11 June 2016. It runs alongside the London premiere – and the first production in over 40 years – of John Osborne's A Subject Of Scandal And Concern.

Commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the Finborough Theatre's THEGREATWAR100 series continues with the world premiere of It Is Easy To Be Dead about war poet Charles Sorley which runs  from 15 June–9 July 2016. It plays concurrently with the European premiere of a Canadian classic, Maggie and Pierre, about Pierre and Maggie Trudeau, the parents of Canada's new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The world premiere of a first play by an exciting new playwright, Amy Ng, Shangri-La plays from 12 July–6 August 2016. The season comes to an end with the controversial new Canadian play, the European premiere of Proud by Michael Healey.

For full information please visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Apr 7th

Lazarus Presents The Bacchae - Interviews with Gavin Harrington-Odedra and Nick Biadon

By Carolin Kopplin

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A man is just a man, unless that man is God.

Lazarus Theatre Company has a certain expertise in performing Greek plays. The Bacchae will be their ninth production of a Greek drama after having presented adaptations of Medea, ElektraHecubaOrestesElectraThe Women of TroyIphigenia in Aulis, and Oedipus in 2013.

I spoke to director Gavin Harrington-Odreda and Nick Biadon, who plays Dionysus, about the latest production of this exciting theatre company.

Could you tell me a little about how you approached the play and the process? 

GHO: After reading the play again and doing research on previous productions it dawned on me that the play is called The Bacchae for a reason. It's not called Pentheus, Dionysus, Agave, or The Tragedy at Thebes. I wanted to find out who the Bacchae are, so that we can then discover who everyone else is in comparison to them. Then I started finding music that made me think of the play, investigating what the play sounded like, how it looked, and what the story is about.

The rehearsal is a collaborative process where the cast and I devise elements and sections of the piece together. We use influences from the text, images and music of inspiration, and our own experiences to develop the final product.

NB: We started with a lot of research, and discussions as a company to understand the history and setting of the play. We have a fantastic dramaturg, David, who's been a huge help in giving us the context of Greek mythology, culture and theatrical history - having that solid foundation is crucial when putting on a play like this. On top of all this great source material I then applied my own process from my training at The Oxford School of Drama: asking those basic character questions, mining the text for clues, and finding out what it is my character wants. The biggest challenge is finding Dionysus' status without 'playing' it. There's that acting adage that you don't 'play' the King - he receives his status because of how others treat him, not because he's 'being kinglike'. The same challenge applies for a god!

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 The director in rehearsal.

Did you adapt the drama or make any major changes?

GHO: The edit that we are using has been adapted with the cast in mind. During casting, we started to have an idea of who the characters were, and they started to speak through the actors and make decisions for us.  

NB: We're working from an adapted version by the director, Gavin. The biggest change is the adaption of the choric text and inclusion of self-devised pieces by the company, to really individualise the Bacchae and give us an insight into the followers of Dionysus. When it comes down to it the play is really about them - Dionysus is just a catalyst for change - so it's great to be able to understand them more. 

Is it going to be a very realistic or more stylised production? 

GHO: Through the devising process, we have been finding physical ways to tell the story, we are interpreting the text and the situation and devising different ways to communicate this to the audience. If I had to label it one or the other, I would definitely say that the production will be more stylised. We as a company have been affected by the story, and hope that this can be communicated, and maybe even translated, to the audience.

NB: We're still experimenting and playing with ideas in rehearsals, but we've been devising a lot of movement and music pieces to convey ideas and physical events - creating the atmosphere of an earthquake, for example. 

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Nick Biadon in rehearsal

How do you see the contradictory character of the god Dionysus? 

GHO: Dionysus is a manifestation of contradictions. Our dramaturg David Bullen has suggested that Dionysus represents the two sides of a binary situation, each individually, but also, at the same time dissolves the binary. He is both man and woman, and dissolves the two. He is also the Greek god that teaches us to amend the Greek understanding of 'everything in moderation' by saying even moderation in moderation. In order for society to function, we need to have release. 

In this play, Dionysus is a mirror to Pentheus, and vice versa. They may have differing world views, but they are very similar. Pentheus identifies himself as the ruler of his society or world, and when that is threatened, he fights for recognition as the leader. Dionysus is fighting for recognition that he has been denied by Pentheus and his family. They are both willing to go the extreme action of killing for it. 

NB: What I love about ancient Greek mythology is how 'human' the gods are; none of them are perfect, they all have their own foibles. Zeus, for example, was a serial adulterer - that's how Dionysus was conceived. So it's really interesting to explore those contradictory elements in Dionysus. Why is he so desperate to be acknowledged as a god? Does that come from a place of deep insecurity, or does he just love the praise? I think there's a bit of both in there. He's definitely on a revenge mission, but he's noticeably similar to Pentheus in a lot of ways as well - proud, stubborn, sometimes childish in needing acknowledgement. There's much more going on in his head than what you see on the surface, and it's fascinating to unpack all of that in rehearsal. 

Why do you think this play needs to be seen today?

GHO: The Bacchae is a play that addresses issues that affect minorities and marginalised groups of society. Identity, recognition, legitimisation and freedom are all driving forces for characters in this play. Regardless of whether you identify as a member of a marginalised group, it makes us question how they are treated.

NB: I think at its core The Bacchae is an exploration of the ideas of liberation, the blurring of society's lines between structure and freedom, and what can happen when power is given to the powerless in society. Despite its age, it's a play which can and should challenge us to look at our own modern society, and what our limits are. Do we have too much structure in our lives - whether self-imposed, or forced upon us? Is it possible to have too much freedom? What are the implications of either extreme, for us and those around us? These are questions I think everyone should ask of their own lives, and hopefully questions which this play will provoke.

Interviews conducted by Carolin Kopplin 

Until 7th May at the Blue Elephant Theatre, Camberwell

Photographs by Adam Trigg 

Mar 31st

Applications Now Open for a Fourth Season of FROM PAGE TO STAGE 2016

By Carolin Kopplin

From Page to Stage is a season of musical theatre dedicated to showcasing new musical work in development to an audience, to gain feedback and create new opportunities for the artists involved. Now in its fourth year, and following its most successful season to date in 2015 at the Tristan Bates Theatre, Aria Entertainment is inviting applications for the 2016 season dedicated to showcasing new British musical work in development. Submissions open from today until 3 June 2016 

Returning to the Tristan Bates Theatre for its 2016 season, this year’s From Page to Stage will include: 

A new British musical
 – to headline the season and run for two weeks in a fully-staged production

Showcases – parts of new musicals in development, presented with minimal staging and on scripts

Rehearsed readings – 3 full musicals in development, read from scripts

Gala Night – a night showcasing some of the best individual songs from musicals submitted to the season – both the shows to be seen in the season itself and those that are not

From Page to Stage has gone from strength to strength since it started in 2013 at the Landor Theatre. Last year the season included a two-week run of The Stationmaster, a brand new British musical with music and lyrics by Tim Connor and book by Susannah Pearse. Readings included a new musical called Out There by Loserville writing duo Elliot Davies and James Bourne, an adaptation of Edith Nesbitt’sFive Children and It by House of Mirrors and Hearts composer Eamonn O’Dwyer, and a new piece called Princess Phyllida’s Fortnight from Tim Sanders and Charles Miller, whose Return of the Soldierreceived a full production at the Jermyn Street Theatre after a reading in the 2014 season. 

Producer Katy Lipson says: “From Page To Stage is proving year after year how much writing talent we have in the UK. Each year we are sent over 150 new pieces and each year we reach more and more audiences. This year we are delighted to be expanding into the North West of England and are looking for a piece which specifically incorporates or has a Northern element to it; this will be workshopped and presented at The Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester over a week long period in September 2016." 

To apply for the 2016 season you must have:

- a 100 word synopsis of your musical

- 3 MP3’s from your show

- 3 sample scenes from your show

- one example of your piano/vocal sheet music

Please note: No casts bigger than 8 due to funding restrictions. 

Submissions are now open and can be made only on the From Page to Stage website until 3 June 2016.

Visit: www.FromPage2Stage.com |@frompage2stage @AriaEnts | www.frompage2stage.com

Mar 22nd

The Non-Stop Connolly Show - An Interview with Margaretta D'Arcy and Shane Dempsey

By Carolin Kopplin

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The Finborough Theatre, known for unearthing forgotten gems and staging provocative new writing, presents The Non-Stop Connolly Show - A Dramatic Cycle of Continuous Struggle in Six Parts by Margaretta D'Arcy and John Arden - an epic play cycle to commemorate the centenary of Dublin's Easter Rising of 1916. First seen in a 24 hour performance in Dublin at Easter (29 March) 1975, this daring revival, directed by Shane Dempsey, will be the first time that the entire cycle has ever been shown continuously in the UK.

Presented as a staged reading, The-Non Stop Connolly Show follows the life and career of Ireland's greatest, yet hardly known, revolutionary, James Connolly, an Irish Republican and a socialist leader, starting with his birth in Scotland to Irish immigrant parents, charting through his political maturation in Ireland and America to his execution by of a British firing squad for his role in the Easter Rising.

Originally produced as a full-scale production in association with the Irish Workers' Cultural Centre, the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union and the Offical Sinn Féin Party, the play consisted of six parts and was performed over 24 hours in Dublin.

I asked Margaretta D'Arcy why she and John Arden chose the form of a play cycle when writing the play. Ms D'Arcy explained that 1975 was a ferocious time. There was internment without trial and torture, comparable to what was going on in Abu Ghraib years later, and splits within the Republican movement: "Those were dirty times." When she and John Arden decided to write a play about James Connolly to give him the recognition he deserved, they knew that it would have to be long in order to cover his entire history. Written in verse and consisting of very short contrasting scenes, the structure of the play was inspired by rituals requiring that various tasks had to be fulfilled before a person is recognised, which goes back to ancient history.

D'Arcy and Arden decided not to stage their work in a conventional theatre setting, presenting the cycle in Liberty Hall instead. It was an enormous production and very expensive using masks with the actors being on stage throughout, changing into different characters in full view of the audience. As the Finborough is an intimate space, it was decided that a staged reading would be preferable. In a future production Ms D'Arcy would like to see several actors of different genders playing James Connolly.

Director Shane Dempsey explained that the main reason they had gone for a staged reading as opposed to a full production is to do with time constraints: "This is the first London production in over forty years so we are all feeling the significance of this.  The essence of the play lies in its desire to tell Connolly's story. We will be breathing life to a work of major importance and giving voice to people that are often ignored in traditional conversations around The Dublin Rising." 

The play is very dense, consisting of 6 parts and 14 sections, with each section being a play of its own, and different issues being discussed in the different parts. Ms Darcy sees James Connolly as one of the few professional socialists in the Uprising and quite a unique man, who had a  theoretical understanding of what he was doing: "He got lost." Ms D'Arcy explained that after the War of Independence, any hint of socialism was smashed as the Church and the Bourgeois took over. Only the glory of 1916 remains. She thinks it is very important to tell his story: "He went to Edinburgh to join his brother. He was invited to the U. S. to bring the Irish in." Yet because of a difference of opinion, he left the U. S. for Belfast, where he was sent as an organiser. He was always a socialist and his writing remains so people can learn from him although he is not there any more.

Shane Dempsey agreed with me that it seemed that Connolly was certainly on a continuous journey. However, he would argue that it was a journey of political awakening. "He witnessed incredible injustices in his early life and many would claim that this influenced the path he followed. What is certain is his fundamental desire to create a more humane, fair and just society and this to him was more important that the notion of Irish independence. This is often ignored but is essential to understanding was made Connolly tick." 

Margaretta D'Arcy thinks that the play cycle is still relevant today because Britain is still occupying Northern Ireland and there are U.S. forces in Ireland although it is supposed to be a neutral country. A member of Aosdána since its inauguration and an activist, Ms D'Arcy was sentenced to three months in prison for the 2012 protest against the use of Shannon Airport as a military base for U. S. military planes. She was offered an opportunity to avoid prison if she signed a bond not to trespass on parts of Shannon Airport not open to the public but she refused. Ms D'Arcy believes that Northern Ireland is still occupied because of military reasons: "Military is big business." She sets her hopes on Jeremy Corbyn who she considers a progressive force in England: "We must join together." Ms D'Arcy hopes that the play cycle about James Connolly will help the audience understand his struggles and to have communality, "to understand that we all struggle for the same". 

Shane Dempsey would like the audience to come away with a greater understanding of James Connolly, the man rather than the myth. "We want our audiences to be moved and engage their hearts as well as their heads.  The play is highly theatrical and has a vibrant energy flowing through it. This comes from the author’s passion to give voice to these wonderful people and I am delighted to help shed some light on this fascinating era of history."  

During the performance of the entire play cycle over the 23rd and 24th April, audience member can come and go as they please during the performance. Margaretta D'Arcy hopes that people will see the whole cycle to become fully immersed in James Connolly's world. Shane Dempsey also hopes that the audience will come and stay although he sees something refreshing about an audience who have the freedom to come and go. "In the sometimes stifling London theatre scene it feels like a welcome change. We are going walking an unknown path and that of course fills us with a little trepidation but also an immense excitement." 

Interviews conducted by Carolin Kopplin. 

More information on the show and booking:

www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

The entire play cycle can be seen on the anniversary of the Easter Rising itself – Saturday, 23 April and Sunday, 24 April.