Guerilla days return to the Everyman
Returning to the Everyman Palace Theatre after its premiere there last year, 'Guerilla Days in Ireland' is a creative adaptation by Neil Pearson of Tom Barry's iconic first-hand account of the struggle for independence in Cork. Kieran O' Mahony chats to Brendan Conroy about returning to the play and how it has been transformed into a theatre piece
You wouldn't normally associate the picturesque Gougane Barra with theatre but it has been the perfect setting and backdrop to host 'Guerilla Days in Ireland' for several shows in recent weeks. This adaptation of Tom Barry's first hand struggle for independence in Cork has had a very successful run there and will tour around the country once this run finishes. For well known actor, Brendan Conroy, this is his second time taking the role of the elder Tom Barry in Neil Pearson's adaptation.
"We're doing 11 shows down here, in a marquee right beside by the Lakeside Hotel, and we've had the wind and the rain and it was very atmospheric so we've been out in all the elements of West Cork with the play. It's great that it's also the same team as last year in the play and you've got Michael Grennell, Aidan O' Hare and Jack Walsh and myself," said Brendan.
Admired by Che Guevara, feared by the British Army and loved by the people he led, Tom Barry was the legendary commander of the West Cork Flying Column and survived the War of Independence to tell his incredible story.
"Neil Pearson has adapted and directed this play and he was always insistent that we remain faithful to the book, by not making judgements about the book but just presenting it. We also had to breakdown the idea of making it a history lesson, it wouldn't work theatrically if it was a history lesson as such. It's a very dynamic piece of theatre, not a heavy history lesson or lecture."
To bring the book to life, Neil bought in the Irish Army to train the actors and they even bought in Michael McCabe, a movement coach to direct them as they actually reinact the battle of Kilmichael on stage so there is a lot of movement and it has been described as an evocation of the honouring of the dead and of people who had died in the struggle.
"Last year was the first time we worked on the play and to come back and do the show a second time is a great honour, we've worked very hard and we've done a few rewrites and now the characters settle in better and there's much more flesh to the piece. We all play different characters so there's a great sense of flexibility."
"It's a play that makes you work very night you're in it. There's no question of coasting or freewheeling down the hill, every night you have to be completely on the ball, and so that's why it's so demanding a piece. It's very dynamic from a theatrical point of view, some of the effects and lights are very impressive and the explosions at the Kilmichael scenes are good too.
"The older Tom confronts the younger Tom, there is reflection on certain actions, and there will be conflicts between them. It starts in Mesopotamia where there's a parallel going on between the young and old Barry and they are telling moments when they encounter, they are very important and don't happen that often."
For those who haven't read the book, Brendan still recommends the play as it is a character study of a young idealistic man and the conflict that arise.
"It moves very quickly at the beginning of the play where Tom is in Mesopotamia and hears about the 1916 Rising and is wondering what is this all about. It quickly moves back to West Cork where he re-educates himself about the history of the conflict which he admitted he didn't know much about.
"He fought in the British Army so he wasn't seen completely as a neutral and various people running the organisations were wary of him." This play is highly recommended capturing a unique time in Irish history.
'Guerilla Days In Ireland' is at The Everyman Palace Theatre from 8 August to 25 August (excluding 12 and 19 August). Tickets are €25, concession tickets are €20, opening night is €15 and students are €7 (Monday -Wednesday). See www.everymanpalace.com for more information.