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Controversial comedy treats Easter Rising as a farce

A controversial new play about the Easter Rising has been written by a Dublin journalist, with Ardal O’Hanlon starring as a cross-dressing Padraig Pearse.

The Father Ted star will play a fictional version of the Rising leader in ‘Death Wish 16: The GPO’.
Controversial comedy treats Easter Rising as a farce
The play is a farcical look at the events of the Easter Rising, in which the group of Irish rebels seized control of the General Post Office in Dublin and declared Ireland an independent republic.

It was one of the most significant events in Irish history and to many, the men involved have gone down as national heroes.

So it may not be the most obvious source of material for a comedy.

However, Dublin writer Damian Corless believes there were ‘farcical’ elements to the Rising, in particular in the planning and actions of Padraig Pearse.

Corless explained his thinking in his column in the Irish Independent: “I’ve just written my first play. It’s a comedy in three acts set around the events of the 1916 Rising. It’s called Death Wish 16: The GPO and I’m quite sure that not everyone will see the funny side.

“Karl Marx famously said: ‘History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.’ In 1916 we had the tragedy. I reckon that at the distance of 100 years, it’s time for the farce.”

Play follows Pearse, Connolly, Clarke, de Valera, Collins and Markievicz

The play is split into three acts and predominantly follow the actions of Pearse, along with the supporting characters of James Connolly, Eamon de Valera, Tom Clarke, Michael Collins and Constance Markievicz.

Corless admits he has created a farcical version of the event for the play, but insists the historical details are mostly accurate.

“In my re-imagining of that Easter, Pearse is a cross-dressing control freak with an Oedipus complex; Connolly is a gruff thug; Dev is a morose creep and Michael Collins is a wide-boy on the make. It is, as I’ve said, an out-and-out farce, but I put a huge amount of historical research into it, in an effort to make it substantially true to life.”

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The first act of the play sees Pearse planning the Rising whilst working as a teacher at St Enda’s School. The second is set at the GPO itself, and the third in Pearse’s jail cell as he awaits his execution.

Death Wish 16: The GPO will be performed at the Kilkenny Cat Laugh comedy festival this weekend.

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