Writer's Notes by Chris Cooper

As an introduction to the play this has been reproduced from Chris Cooper's writer's notes, which form part of the resources sent out all who book the play:

"This is a play about ordinary people undertaking extraordinary journeys that they were compelled to take by circumstances not of their own making and without knowing where they would take them, journeys towards and away from old and new beliefs, journeys towards a new life and self-discovery, perhaps to a never-ending living nightmare and an early death, or perhaps all of these things.  That their journeys were shaped by the decisions of others is without doubt, as is both their naivety, resolve and great courage in the face of them.  Of course for young women and men in 1916, like Kitty O'Connell and Jimmy Brennan, life before and after the war was relentlessly harsh.  Their journeys began with servitude and hard labour and continued with servitude and hard labour along the way, digging, scrubbing, polishing, fetching and carrying.  And tragically the war dragged Kitty and Jimmy apart and denied them the opportunity of different journeys together. For others like (Sister) Rose it was a different journey, in her case towards the emancipation of women and for men like the Padre it was a spiritual journey that shook his beliefs to the very core, whilst it shaped new beliefs in many of those around them."                                                                      
 (Chris Cooper, 2016)

'Over The Top'. Actor Siobhan Twomey playing 'Kitty'. Set design by Richard Holmes and Liz Vass. Photo by Matt Hinks.

The themes of the play were several, such as Irish independence, women’s rights and equality, the slaughter of mechanised warfare and the massive societal consequences for a post-war world. The character of the Sister, Kitty's mentor, speaks to Kitty at the end of her time in France:

Sister: Good God yes girl! We can’t go back to how it was before the war. No one can. Do you think Ireland will be the same again? After the war, after the uprising. We woman have stood up to be counted and we should stay on our feet. It’s hard. But one must look ahead. See beyond all the… suffering. Listen to those guns. We’ve been shelling the enemy lines for a week. The big push is coming. If our troops break through the war could be over in months. Listen to the explosions. Whatever happens O’Connell, you know, that shrapnel will smash bone and rip off limbs and pepper bodies with lead. We have to be prepared for that. And when this sorry slaughter is over, we women have to be ready for that too.”

Matt Hinks