‘Eirebrushed’ by Brian Merriman is a controversial and challenging piece of theatre that takes a lot of cultural taboos and shakes them to their core. It is what a gay theatre festival is about, if it is to assert a mainstream relevance. This moving, provocative story invites Pearse, Casement, Gore Booth and O’Farrell back to the new ‘Republic of Equals’ to ‘tell their truth’ in 75 minutes of energetic delivery, interesting construction and a rapid fire of ideas, theories, sacred cows and twisted interpretation. It casts the fight for freedom in 1916 beyond the nationalistic struggle and into one for personal freedom. It makes a lot of sense. Ideas are thrown out in quick-fire delivery of questions with answers to an acknowledged audience but it stops rightly short of insisting on a particular conclusion. That is up to us and we have a range of options we didn’t have before the play began to consider. The audience has to work at this and it is definitely a piece that a walk along the boardwalks afterwards will help to digest.
Killian Sheridan presents a fragile Pearse, not the leader expected. He still struggles with truth and dogged certainty, a century later. Stephen Gorman’s rasping Casement is well presented without any baggage. He is forthright, to the point, honest sometimes with considerable humour. That is what might be expected of a story of heroism in 1916, but the discussion of womens’ rights, passionately placed in the hands of Joanne Logues’ Eva Gore Booth and Diana O’Connor’s empathetic Nurse Elizabeth O Farrell, is the real feminist heartbeat of the piece. Logue’s is eloquent as a campaigner and writer. Farrell’s down to earth, low energy logic connects the audience into a complicated plot with humour and ease. There is some astonishing research and the thematic connection of the common bonds between the heroes in the final scenes is powerful and revealing. The relevance of the struggle for personal freedoms today is not lost. Excellent lighting and design graphics keep the heartbeats pounding as the Republican idealists stand accused of replacing a political oppressor with a conscience oppressor for another century. It is a battle of Church and State as Casement notes, ‘oppression is often defined by borders but the worst is within’.
This play reaches out way beyond the remit of this theatre festival and if it begins a new approach to examining this oncoming decade of anniversaries then it will contribute something relevant and important and fuel many a debate in the days to come. It will not be so easy to ‘airbrush’ out the contribution of LGBT heroes in the future or to accept the narrow definition constructed in the text books so easily and limiting. Provocative, controversial, revealing and new. Runs until Saturday in the New Theatre at 7.30 pm with a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm.
Festival Review Team