Writer: Sharon Sexton
Director: Cillian O’Donnachadha
Reviewer: Laura Marriott
A Fit Wife For a Revolutionary focuses in on the rarely mentioned Kathleen Clarke, wife of the first signatory of the Proclamation Thomas Clarke and a revolutionary in her own right. Her story is fascinating and Sharon Sexton is marvellous as Kathleen Clarke.
The play encompasses the events of Easter week 1916. From the days immediately preceding the Rising before ending with her husband’s execution. Unlike the many women who were active in the Rising Clarke spent Easter week alone at home, frustrated and always hoping for news of her husband. She had been trusted by the Irish Republican Brotherhood to guard their secret documents and finances and to ensure their safe keeping in the event of the leaders’ deaths.
Her strength, love and passion are inspiring and take on an enhanced resonance when considered in the light of the plethora of 1916 works that have emerged this year. The final moments are particularly are delicate and moving. The play’s title comes from something another woman said to Clarke when she realised how strongly she supported the Rising. Meant as an insult for Kathleen it rang true and she took it as a compliment. It is important to note that this is not a self-important, lecturing piece. There are moments of humour throughout and one can see that it was written with a real interest in the play’s subject. It helps to make the events of that famous week feel close and familiar.
Smock Alley Boy’s School is the perfect setting for A Fit Wife For A Revolutionary. The play begins with Clarke praying in the old church windows, looking down over the audience before she descends and speaks on our level. The play makes use of the unusual theatre setting. The different levels, the empty brick windows that once were part of a church.
Sexton is an accomplished and experienced actress who commands the stage as Clarke. Remarkably this is her playwriting debut. It is fully rounded, powerful and timely. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a second career for Sexton as a writer. It is also well researched and feels authentic, as does the set which includes an old singer sewing machine, writing desk, a doll’s basket and table that at times doubles for a shop counter. This centenary year has seen an outpouring art to commemorate and investigate 1916 and its legacy, much of which has focused on trying to reintegrate the women back into the Easter Rising narrative; however, A Fit Wife For A Revolutionary is without doubt one of the finest pieces of work to emerge this year.
Runs until 3 December 2016 | Image: Contributed