The Limerick Soviet: Bread Not Profits

Mike Finn in a still from On The Wire, a previous collaboration with Terry O'Donovan

BEST known for his shows ‘Pigtown’ and ‘The Unlucky Cabin Boy’, Mike Finn has a 30 year history originating and producing work, first with Island Theatre Company. He went on to co-found Bottom Dog and in recent years, has been a gun for hire across various platforms and is current theatre artist in residence, Belltable.

The proud Thomond man’s next is ‘Bread Not Profits’. This is a play in progress that will see evening light at Belltable on Thursday December 14, 6pm and 8pm readings.

Yes, these will be read rehearsals and not a costumed production with all the bells a-chiming. Set aside 90 minutes for the professional cast of 12 pulled together for ‘Bread Not Profits’, homage to the Limerick Soviet.

A Limerick Soviet? ‘Get up the yard’ is the understandable reaction but yes, Treaty City did experience such. Nor were we an isolated case in Europe.

“What ‘soviet’ means in Russia is a workers’ council,” explains this low-profile writer, actor, producer. “The Limerick Soviet goes back to the time of a general strike against the British military who declared military law in the city and created barricades around it. Permits were required to move in and out.”

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There’s a look back to Pigtown’s telescoping of Limerick through the 19th century in this rebellious tale. And having co-devised 2014’s moving WW1 dramaturgy ‘On The Wire’, Finn also acted in and sang in soldier guise in that City of Culture production directed by Terry O’Donovan. Marie Boylan’s concept took an Irish Times Theatre Award.

Finn is back with O’Donovan in the director’s chair for ‘Bread Not Pofits’. He is delighted to be so. “I knew Terry when he was coming up through ‘Limerick Youth Theatre. Now he is an amazingly accomplished theatre director with his own company, working out of London.”

O’Donovan is the energetic master of site-specific works. Did anyone out there share my thrill in his six (simultaneous) scene play set in the luxurious Savoy Hotel on Henry Street? Each circulating set was arrived at in a bedroom by the likewise circulating audience as we trailed the dizzy mess of a wedding/ betrayal in ‘I Do’. Rare craic, and complex staging.

As theatre artist in residence at Belltable, Mike Finn secured Terry O’Donovan for ‘Bread Not Profitis’ through the Belltable:Connect development programme.  Mike continues:

“What was unique about Limerick’s Soviet is that the tradespeople took over the running of the entire city”. They printed money vouchers, circulated food, smuggled goods and guns and people where possible.

Next week’s reading is the second draft of this work. “The plan is to do the play in 2019, the centenary of the strike, in Cleeve’s Factory”.

That is the only edifice remaining of the great industrial era of Limerick manufacture – and its Bolshie workers who took a stand against control by an imperial power.

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