Spud!, a dark comedy on the Irish Famine written and performed by Conor Grimes and Kevin McAleer, will premiere at the Lyric Theatre on August 31.

The play, directed by Conleth Hill, is set in Ireland in 1847.

“Robert Story is alone in his rural cottage as the great hunger stalks the land, and threatens to come banging at his door. Instead it is his younger brother Felix who rattles the knocker. Back from London with a dazzling array of theatrical airs and graces, and possibly some food in his satchel he holds close to his chest.

“The brothers slowly but surely begin to crumble, and stagger into a desperate game of cat and mouse. If only there was a cat. Or a mouse.

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“With the bailiff's battering ram rumbling ever closer, and their range of survival options dwindling by the hour, the Story Brothers are offered a shot at redemption from an unlikely source. A surreal carrot is dangled, but can they grasp the nettle?”

Photo credit: Lyric Theatre/Kevin McAleer

Photo credit: Lyric Theatre/Kevin McAleer

McAleer told The Irish Times that the project started 18 months ago with the title “How to Survive the Great Irish Famine.”

He said: “We’re about to find out if Ireland is ready for a comedy about the Famine, or whether it would have been wiser to maybe leave it for another 170 years, until the dust settles. It’s only four years since Channel 4 had a similar idea for a sitcom called Hungry, to be scripted by Irish writer Hugh Travers; the very idea caused an outcry that awoke the faminists, and the project was left on the shelf…And yet we have a finished play on our hands, and we’d like the world to see it. We did all that soul-searching ourselves at every stage – before, during and indeed after the writing.”

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He later adds: “I think all our research has given Conor and I a sense of being direct descendants of famine survivors – it’s our own story to tell, our own history to play with. It’s not done flippantly, and certainly not to shock. We identify with all the deep psychic scars of the nation from Famine times: the suffering, the hurt, the anger, the shame. And if that sounds a bit serious, rest assured that we put it all in a large pot, add several dollops of nonsense and a large pinch of salt, to produce a surreal soup that we hope will have you laughing all the way to workhouse.”

Spud! runs at the Lyric Theatre from Aug 31 - Sept 14. More information and tickets can be found here.