Eirebrushed at Sean O’Casey Theatre

Brian Merriman’s brilliant play Eirebrushed comes to the Sean O’Casey Theatre for one night only on 4 November before it embarks on a US run later in the month. The play has earned rave reviews since opening at the 2014 Dublin Gay Theatre Festival and was even mentioned in the Irish parliament, the Dáil, during the debate over the 2015 Gender Recognition Bill, which was subsequently passed.

Eirebrushed tells the story of the lesbian and gay heroes of the 1916 Rising. Elizabeth O’Farrell (Maria Blaney), Padraig Pearse (John Kelly), Roger Casement (Stephen Gorman) and Eva Gore Booth (Flo McSweeney) return today to see how the Republic of Equals that was declared in 1916 turned out 100 years later. Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell in particular was airbrushed out of history. She delivered the surrender to the British forces and was stood beside Pearse when offering the surrender but the famous photograph of the surrender was subsequently altered to remove her from the picture.

The 1916 Proclamation was revolutionary for the time as it guaranteed equality for all citizens – men and women alike. The four main characters in the play return to Ireland 100 years later to find out how their vision of a promised land of equals turned out.

“The play’s premise is: ‘can a flawed person be a hero?’” says writer Brian Merriman. “They were not just fighting for freedom but to be free. Equality must be personal, and the play argues that their heroic efforts just replaced a political oppressor with a conscience oppressor.”

This 75-minute play is full of humour, pathos and actual quotations from the writing of the four protagonists. It challenges the conventional Irish and Republican stereotype of erasing the contribution of some lesbian and gay people at a time of struggle to overcome oppression in Ireland. The play records their words used in inspirational poetry, speeches and politics as they struggled to create the society promised by the 1916 Proclamation where no minority would be subject to the will of the majority.

This important play has been included in Culture Ireland’s ‘Ireland 2016’ commemorative arts programme. While Ireland has undoubtedly come far when it comes to recognising the rights of minorities, Eirebrushed is reminder that many people had to fight to win these rights and there are some battles that still need to be fought. Following the show in the Sean O’Casey Theatre, the play will move on to United States. It will be on in the Provincetown Theater, the theatrical home of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, from 10 – 12 November before moving on to the new diversity theatre Downtown Art, 70 East 4th Street, NYC 10003 (www.downtownart.org) from 14 – 19 November.

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