Fresh from her acclaimed play Narvik winning last year’s Best New Play Award at the UK Theatre Awards, playwright and songwriter Lizzie Nunnery is to premiere her new play with songs To Have to Shoot Irishmen.
Inspired by the true murder of Irish pacifist Francis Sheehy Skeffington by a British soldier during the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916, the new play explores fractured national identity and the chaotic legacy of British military intervention.
Directed by Gemma Kerr (Hitting Town, Southwark Playhouse) and produced by Lizzie Nunnery’s Almanac Arts and Claire Bigley, To Have to Shoot Irishmen will be at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool from the 25-27 Oct as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival and at the Arts Centre at Edge Hill on the 6 Nov
To Have to Shoot Irishmen explores the events around Sheehy Skeffington’s death during the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. While his rebel friends were out with guns seizing public buildings, and declaring a free Ireland, Skeffington was walking the streets calling for peace and preventing looting. While crossing a bridge Frank was pulled from the crowd, arrested without charge, held for two days then executed under orders from British soldier, Captain John Bowen Colthurst.
The new play conjures the shattering impact of those events on his wife and feminist activist Hanna, on William the teenage soldier who guarded Frank, and on Vane the rebellious commander who bears the news of Frank’s death to Hanna.
The production will merge fictionalized scenes with historic document, and traditional songs with original music and movement, to create a fluid and absorbing performance that interrogates history to ask vital contemporary questions.
Playing the role of Frank will be Gerard Kearns who is best known for playing Ian Gallagher in Shameless and appearing in the BAFTA Award-Winning The Mark of Cain, both for Channel 4. His other credits include The Last Kingdon, BBC; Looking for Eric, Trespass Against Us and Mike Leigh’s forthcoming film Peterloo, all Film 4 and onstage in The Accrington Pals and Much Ado About Nothing, Royal Exchange, Manchester. Next year he will be seen in the HBO/Sky miniseries Chernobyl.
Joining Kearns will be Elinor Lawless (The End of Hope, Soho Theatre; King Charles III, Wyndham’s Theatre and Bakkhai, Almedia Theatre) as Hanna; Robbie O’Neill (Little Boy Blue, ITV and Jonathan Strange and Dr Norrell, BBC) as William and Russell Richardson (An August Bank Holiday Lark, Northern Broadsides and A View from the Bridge, Bolton Octagon) as Vane.
To Have to Shoot Irishmen will be designed by recent LIPA graduate Rachel Rooney (her first professional production), with lighting design by Richard Owen (Narvik and Plastic Figurines, Box of Tricks and Flexn Iceland for Manchester International Festival and Reykjavik Arts Festival), original music and songs by Vidar Norheim and Lizzie Nunnery and Dramaturgy by Lindsay Rodden.
Writer Lizzie Nunnery is an award-winning playwright and celebrated singer-songwriter. Lizzie’s first play Intemperance (Liverpool Everyman, Sept 2007) was shortlisted for the Meyer-Whitworth Award and received five stars in the Guardian. In 2016 she premiered Narvik at the Liverpool Playhouse, which went on to tour to great acclaim. It was shortlisted for the international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and won Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards 2017. Lizzie has also written extensively for BBC radio and has an original feature film in development with Blue Horizon Productions.
Lizzie Nunnery said: “To Have to Shoot Irishmen has been a long-term labour of love. In 2007 I stumbled upon the history of Frank and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and from that moment they wouldn’t stop talking to me. I was captivated by their political passion, their personal story and their own writing. They were true trailblazers as pacifists, socialists and feminists. The horrific circumstances of Frank’s death in Dublin in 1916 say so much about the brutalising effects of militarism and Britain’s chaotic intervention with other nations. This is a play about Britain and Ireland, but it speaks of so many other conflicts, of so many acts of silencing. It’s a resonant story for our times that I had to tell.”
Almanac Arts are a female-led theatre company headed by writer/musician Lizzie Nunnery and writer/dramaturg Lindsay Rodden. Since 2009 they have worked with some of the most exciting musicians, writers, actors and visual artists across Merseyside and beyond, to create music and live literature events that light up the senses. Exploring social history and storytelling traditions through live experiments, they challenge artists to blur boundaries between theatre, concert, performance poetry and visual art, making work for gig-goers and theatre-goers alike.
To Have to Shoot Irishmen is supported by Arts Council England, Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust and Unity Theatre Trust.
TOUR DATES –
Thursday 25 – Saturday 27th October at 7.30pm– Liverpool Everyman Theatre
As part of Liverpool Irish Festival
Box Office: Tel 0151 709 4776 / www.everymanplayhouse.com
Tuesday 30 October at 8pm – Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Tickets £13.75, concessions TBC
Box Office: Tel 01227 787787 / www.marlowetheatre.com/
Thursday 1 & Friday 2 November at 8pm- Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury
Tickets £14.50, Concessions £12.50
Box Office: Tel 01743 281281 / www.theatresevern.co.uk/
Monday 5 November at 7.30pm- Mumford Theatre, Anglia Ruskin University,
Tickets £12.50 full price, £10.50 concessions, £8.50 student/child
Box Office: 01223 352932 / www.anglia.ac.uk/mumfordtheatre
Tuesday 6 November at 8pm – The Arts Centre at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk
Tickets £10, £8 concessions, free for Edge Hill University students
Box Office: 01695 584480 / www.edgehill.ac.uk/artscentre