Rebels and Friends
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Constance Markievicz being the first woman elected to the British Parliament, Lynx revived its highly praised production of Rebels and Friends with the support of Arts Council England and the Irish government's Emigrant Support Programme.
This play is the story of the Irish sisters Constance Markievicz and Eva Gore-Booth:
Con a leader of the Easter Rising – Eva the pacifist;
Con the first woman elected to the British parliament in 1918 and the first Labour Minister of the Dail – Eva the campaigner for women’s rights and trade unions in North West England;
Con the artist – Eva the poet;
Con who married a Polish count – Eva the partner of Esther Roper.
This unique production united the political and the personal sides of the sisters’ lives in an extraordinarily rich style of production created by William Alderson. The play presented Con and Eva’s story as if though their eyes and ears, using:
A large cast of recorded voices.
Some 600 images, including a wealth of historical material from the National Library of Ireland, the Sligo Museum, the Imperial War Museum and elsewhere, together with specially commissioned photographs of Ireland, England and Italy.
Several of Eva’s poems, with an edition of Poems from the Play, hand-printed to coincide with the revival.
Finally, parts were danced, choreographed by Siân Williams (Master of Dance at the Globe Theatre and choreographer for the BBC’s Wolf Hall).
It is no wonder that reviewers for the new production agreed with those for the original one. In 1980, the Cork Examiner described the production as a play where:
“History comes to life, transcending mere scholarship … There is a documentary sweep which lifts it above mere theatre and unfolds history in quite the most absorbing fashion … Lovely performances give it soul … Quite remarkable.”
Reviewers of the new production said that:
“William Alderson’s production was superb ... an unusual and imaginative production in that it incorporates and unites all the arts: poetry, art, music, dance and drama ... a tour-de-force duet of acting and dancing, beautifully choreographed by Sian Williams.”
and that it was
Excitement about a revival
The new production headlined at the Liverpool Irish Festival, opened the 20th anniversary celebrations at Bolton Irish Centre, and toured to many other Irish centres in England, including the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester and Tyneside Irish Centre in Newcastle. The British Parliament's UK Vote 100 site
invited us to publish a guest blog about the play, and only the calling of a General Election prevented a performance at the Palace of Westminster!
The 2019 tour of Rebels and Friends was supported by Arts Council England, the Irish government Emigrant Support Programme and Unite the Union.
The original production of Rebels and Friends not only toured England, but also toured Ireland twice and then played in Dublin, where people came from as far afield as Belfast to see the performance.
Remarkably, this play dealing with issues of Irish independence was not only supported by the British Council and the Irish Arts Council, but it also succeeded in getting packed houses in both Engalnd and Ireland. It played successfully at Hall Green Library in Birmingham in 1991 where we were told that it was the first play on an Irish theme in the city since the 1974 bombings.
Not only stylistic, but also technical innovation
The original production used ground-breaking technology, with Lynx being the first touring theatre company to use digital tape recording. This meant that the characters on stage could have realistic conversations with the many recorded voices. In fact, the technician running the slides and sound became as involved in the performance as any character on the stage, with a technical operation every 9 seconds on average for the hour and three quarters of the show!
The new production had a more sophisticated lighting, but with a much easier time for the stage manarer, as all the image, sound and lighting cues were controlled from a single computer programme.