A musical about Easter Rising hero Joseph Plunkett and his wife Grace Gifford has proved a huge hit in Belfast and will soon be performed and London.
The musical drama, by writer and director writer Gerry Cunningham, is called Blood Upon the Rose.
It focuses on the tragic love story and marriage of Plunkett and Gifford.
Plunkett was a poet and journalist before he became one of the Easter Rising leaders. He was a key strategist during the uprising and one of the signatories who declared Ireland an independent nation from Britain.
He was sentenced to death for his role in the uprising.
While he was in Kilmainham Gaol awaiting his fate, he was allowed to marry his fiancé– but only hours before he was executed.
Gifford, who was also a keen nationalist, was only 28 when her husband died but she never remarried.
Cunningham compared his drama to the love story between Jack and Rose in the blockbuster movie Titanic.
Plunkett and Gifford’s story is often lost within the enormity of the Easter Rising, but Cunningham believes it hits home with people who have seen his show and can be compared to the love story between Jack and Rose in the blockbuster movie Titanic.
He said: “The story seems to have struck a chord with people who are familiar with the history surrounding the Rising, but not so much the personal lives of those behind it.
“I think the passion, the power and the loss have all connected with people. It certainly makes you look at the personal consequences of what was an iconic but flawed event in history.
“You can’t help but be struck by the tragedy of all. There was no wedding night – after they married in prison, Grace was sent away and allowed back the next day for 10 minutes before her new husband was shot by firing squad.
“What makes the story even more poignant is the fact Plunkett, who never fully recovered from tuberculosis he suffered as a child, was going to die anyway. He had risen from his sick bed to take part in the Rising and doctors had not given him long to live.”
Blood Upon the Rose follows their story against a backdrop of the Rising, with rioting and looting scenes echoing real historical events.
It also features some more everyday interests of Plunkett that show a human side to the passionate leader.
Cunningham said: “I discovered that Joseph Plunkett had a real passion for roller skating, of all things, so that provides some light relief.
“There was a craze for roller skating sweeping across Dublin at the time and rinks were opening all over the place. It’s important for a story to be emotionally entertaining, but to have a little humour as well.”
The musical has been a hit with both theatre goers and critics and will be heading to London’s famous Hammersmith Apollo on 30th March 2019.
Take a look at the trailer for the Belfast show below.
Find out more about Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling