Comedian Ardal O’Hanlon will star as Padraig Pearse in a new controversial play “Deathwish 16: The GPO.” The new farcical play about the 1916 Easter Rising will premiere at the Kilkenny Cat Laughs comedy festival next weekend. Padraig Pearse will be portrayed as a cross-dresser with a fixation on his mother.
The play written by Dublin author and journalist Damian Corless opens in Pearse’s Irish college, St Enda’s, in Dublin, as he plots The Rising. The play continues in the GPO during the week of the rebellion and ends in Pearse’s cell, in Kilmainham Gaol as he, and other signatories of the Proclamation, await their execution.
The author said, “It's a farce inspired by Karl Marx's line about history repeating itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
"I actually did a lot of research into the 1916 Rising before putting pen to paper and while I have twisted and exaggerated a lot of things, a lot of it is mostly true.
"It ends with Pearse in his cell in Kilmainham being shown a vision of the consequences of The Rising for Ireland over the next 100 years, but this being Pearse – the annoying little twerp – he demands to see the consequences over the next 200 years."
Coreless’ previous works includes the book “From Clery's Clock to Wanderly Wagon: Irish History You Weren't Taught at School.” He said he hopes his new play will “raise awareness of the 1916 Rising.”
However, Corless has written about the play and said in an article in the Irish Independent “I'm quite sure that not everyone will see the funny side.”
He wrote, “In 1916 we had the tragedy. I reckon that at the distance of 100 years, it's time for the farce.”
He continued, “In my re-imagining of that Easter, Pearse is a cross-dressing control freak with an Oedipus complex; Connolly is a gruff thug; Dev is a morose creep and Michael Collins is a wide-boy on the make. Collins and Dev go to elaborate lengths to avoid signing the Proclamation, despite Pearse's insistence that the document needs a crucial eighth signatory for luck. While Pearse, Connolly and Clarke share the death wish of the title, Collins and Dev have no intent to sign their own death warrant.
"It is, as I've said, an out-and-out farce, but I put a huge amount of historical research into it, in an effort to make it substantially true to life.”
The first staging of “Deathwish 16: The GPO” will take place in The Hole in the Wall, in Kilkenny, on Sunday, May 31. Coreless told RTE he hopes a full production will follow.The three-act play will also star the Abbey actor Mark Lambert as Tom Clarke, Scottish comedian and BBC presenter Fred McCauley as James Connolly, and Irish comedian Chris Kent as Michael Collins.