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To Have to Shoot Irishmen by Lizzie Nunnery – Omnibus Theatre then touring

Lizzie Nunnery, Zanzibar, photo by Keith Ainsworth
Lizzie Nunnery, Zanzibar, photo by Keith Ainsworth

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, To Have to Shoot Irishmen will open at Omnibus Theatre from the 2-20 October and will then tour until 6 November.

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.

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. Casting will be announced soon.

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.

The production will premiere at the Omnibus Theatre from the 2-20 October and will then tour to Liverpool, Canterbury, Shrewsbury, Cambridge and Ormskirk.

To Have to Shoot Irishmen is supported by Arts Council England, Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust and Unity Theatre Trust.

A new play with songs by Lizzie Nunnery
Director: Gemma Kerr
Designer: Rachael Rooney / Lighting Designer: Richard Owen
Original music composed by Vidar Norheim and Lizzie Nunnery
Sound design by Vidar Norheim / Dramaturgy by Lindsay Rodden
Assistant Director Chantell Walker / Associate Producer Claire Bigley

Opening venue: Omnibus Theatre, Clapham 2-20 October 2018
National tour: 26th Oct – 6 November 2018
National Press Performance:
Thursday 4 October at 7pm at Omnibus Theatre, Clapham, SW4 0QW


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