The story of the Abbey’s role in Ireland’s revolution is well-known: through powerful dramas like Cathleen ní Houlihan, the national theatre established by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory played a leading role in the cultural nationalist revival, politicising a generation of revolutionaries. When Yeats asked ‘Did that play of mine send out/Certain men the English shot?’, he was thinking of the Abbey actor, Sean Connolly, the first rebel fatality of 1916. Following independence, the Abbey became the first theatre in the world to receive a state grant in acknowledgement of its contribution to the winning of Irish freedom.
This film explores the individual lives of the Abbey’s 1916 rebels to tell a more complicated story about the tensions between the Abbey theatre and Irish nationalism, the complex relationship between culture and revolution, and the gulf between the radical aspirations of the Abbey’s rebels and the conservative outcome of their revolution.
It focuses on the story of the following individuals:
Their lives tell the story of a lost revolution. By contrasting the radical, socialist, feminist, and intellectual impulses of republicanism before the Rising with the conservative, Catholic ethos that emerged after independence, it tells a story of the 1916 Rising that is relevant for our times, a story of missed opportunities and alternative futures, and the failure to achieve the radical goals of the Easter Proclamation.
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