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Fishamble’s Inside the GPO review at General Post Office, Dublin

The cast of Inside the GPO at General Post Office, Dublin. Photo: Dan O'Neill The cast of Inside the GPO at General Post Office, Dublin. Photo: Dan O'Neill

It’s been one hundred years since Irish rebels led a rising against British rule, using Dublin’s General Post Office as their headquarters. The dearth of information about what happened inside the GPO during Easter week 1916 doesn’t hinder playwright Colin Murphy, who uses the gaps in the record to pen a wartime drama.

Staged inside the modern day-GPO by director Jim Culleton for Fishamble Theatre Company, Murphy’s docu-drama sees rebel leaders withstand the British forces shelling the building until it eventually catches fire. The socialist James Connolly (complete with a Scottish accent) is given an upstanding performance by Aidan Kelly, and Michael Glenn Murphy is ferocious as the Fenian Tom Clarke. Nicely, Ronan Leahy cuts a guileless figure of Padraig Pearse, the poet under pressure.

Writing fiction while satisfying the historical record clearly comes with the pressure of context. Twenty-four characters have to breeze through Murphy’s drama, and some get more attention than others; Orla Fitzgerald’s dedicated Winifred Carney (one of many female rebels marginalised until recently) doesn’t quite break loose. By not following the evacuation of the GPO into the Rising’s final struggle on Moore Street, this vigorous production might risk being unfinished. Rather, that incompleteness seems to be its draw.

Staged on this foundational site of the Irish Republic, what’s affecting about Murphy’s persuasive drama is the revolutionaries’ belief in pluralism; the rebel Min Ryan (an excellent Liz Fitzgibbon) becomes an eloquent figure to ask: what happens next?

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Verdict
Persuasive if necessarily incomplete docu-drama staged inside the modern day GPO
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