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  • Chris O'Rourke

14 Voices From The Bloodied Field

14 Voices From The Bloodied Field. Image uncredited.

November 21, 1920. One hundred years to the day that Croke Park became a killing field during a Tipperary v Dublin match. Instructed to search supporters for IRA members British Troops, along with members of The Royal Irish Constabulary and the Black and Tans, opened fire on an unsuspecting crowd killing fourteen. A reprisal for the assassination earlier that morning of fourteen British agents. It became known as Bloody Sunday, long before Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972. With 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field, the Abbey Theatre, in association with the GAA, sets out to commemorate that fateful day, and to give voice and recognition to the voiceless and forgotten; the civilian victims. Some as young as ten and eleven years old.

Following the Abbey's Dear Ireland format, 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field again delivers a series of monologues thematically linked. Fourteen monologues created by fourteen writers, directors, and actors which owe more than a passing nod to Michael Foley's superb book The Bloodied Field. Celebrating the lives of the victims at the heart of this centennial commemoration, there's a vivid sense of the ordinariness and vitality of their lived experience, of their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Whether wanting to get married, score the winning goal, or simply watch the match, it's coming to know the people at the heart of this tragic event that make this tragedy all the more powerful. And turns Croke Park into hallowed ground.

Steve Blount in 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field. Image by Ros Kavanagh

A fact brought home during a heartfelt introduction by legendary GAA commentator Micheál O' Muiricheartaigh, after which the great and good of Irish theatre, new and old, serve up a hefty dish. Beginning with the tale of Jerome O'Leary, age 10, which sees scene stealer, Jake Verrecchia, being an absolute revelation. As is Jack Galvin as the 11 year old William (Perry) Robinson. Whether its Laurence Kinlan, under Stephen Rea's direction, reminding us why Tom Kilroy is a national treasure, or Marty Rea serving up plenty of songs and none of that aul Abbey Theatre shite, (playful references to The Abbey featuring in several pieces) there's an extraordinary vitality to it all. From a put upon Steve Blount, to bride to be Caitríona Ennis, you come to experience the richness lost that day. As well as better understanding the enduring hatred for the Black and Tans and the reverence in which Croke Park is held. Throughout, what writer Timmy Creed calls 'a minute's silence that goes on forever' is deeply resonant. Cradled in some fine writing, direction and performances in which monologues capture both the sublime and the sentimental.

Yet there's also a sense of too much of a good thing and too little of what's needed. Fourteen monologued variations on a theme, spread over three and a half hours on a screen, is likely to test even the most ardent GAA, theatre loving supporter after a working week of Zoom. Also, the unforgivably short, two day online run means you most likely will have to binge watch. Which risks the experience blurring into the best audition showreel ever. For 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field deserves time to be absorbed. Time to grab a tea or wine break. Indeed, given the superb quality of the scripts, direction and performances, along with the importance of the subject matter, it deserves more than a 48 hour run.

Christy Moore in 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field. Image by Ros Kavanagh

14 Voices From The Bloodied Field sees imagination and storytelling giving voice to the forgotten. Throughout, Croke Park is both stage and story, and an integral part of Ireland's cultural life. Yet at the heart of 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field is ordinary people written out of history being rewritten into the now. Larger than the sum of its parts, 14 Voices From The Bloodied Field draws to a close with Christy Moore's reimagined rendition of Minds Locked Shut in which he names the victims from 1920 - Jerome O'Leary, James Burke, Michael Feery, James Matthews, Thomas Ryan, William (Perry) Robinson, Joe Traynor, Jane Boyle, Michael Hogan, Tom Hogan, John William (Billy) Scott, Daniel Carroll, Patrick O'Dowd, James Teehan.

Those who Micheál O' Muiricheartaigh calls 'the dead who shall live forever'.

14 Voices From The Bloodied Field, presented by the Abbey Theatre in partnership with the GAA, is available online until midnight, Sunday November 22.

For more information visit The Abbey Theatre.


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