“Minnie starts off in the play as a caterpillar and by the end she’s this butterfly and flies off.” Two nights at Lime Tree for Druid’s Shadow of a Gunman

Caitríona Ennis, Marty Rea and Rory Nolan in The Shadow of a Gunman Photo by Ros Kavanagh.

DRUID Theatre is on a nationwide tour with Sean O’Casey’s ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’ over the next two months coming to Lime Tree Theatre on February 16 and 17.

Against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence, The Shadow of a Gunman is the first of Sean O’Casey’s Dublin plays to be produced at the Abbey Theatre in 1923.

The story takes place in a Dublin tenement occupied by Seumas Sheilds, a peddler, and Donal Davoren a would-be poet. The rest of the tenement dwellers believe Davoren to be a gunman on the run, a member of the IRA fighting the British occupation. A pretty young tenant Minnie Powell, herself a Republican, is thrilled by Davoren and dreams of a life beyond her Dublin tenement with the mysterious neighbour downstairs.

Last year Druid produced DruidO’Casey, the trilogy of O’Casey’s Dublin plays onstage in one day including The Plough and The Stars and Juno and the Paycock. It toured Galway, Belfast, Dublin and the USA to rave five star reviews from The Observer, Financial Times and New York Stage Review.

This tour features Druid Ensemble members Rory Nolan and Marty Rea, alongside Gabriel Adewusi, Clare Barrett, Caitríona Ennis, Bosco Hogan, Sean Kearns, Robbie O’Connor and Catherine Walsh.

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Limerick Post chatted with actress Caitríona Ennis who plays Minnie Powell, the pretty young tenant at the centre of this funny and tragic story.

For Caitríona the DruidO’Casey trilogy was her first time working with the theatre company and the cast are back in rehearsals for this new tour.

“It was a huge operation to work on all three plays at the one time. It challenges and trains your muscles as an actor. And then to tour them to so many different places, you’re getting different reactions, so then you’re learning more about each piece.”

“We’re definitely having a lot of fun with Shadow. It’s a jewel in the crown for me. It’s fast paced and once you step onto the boards you travel with each character, it’s so full of joy and heart and drama.”

Caitríona’s character is Minnie Powell, who is starstruck at the beginning of the play but grows into being the bravest hero in the story.

“I absolutely adore Minnie. It’s a coming of age story. She is young and naive at the start, she enters this room thinking, what an amazing man and poet and he is a gunman on the run. (Donal Davoren). 

“Ultimately, Minnie’s journey is about realising her own strength. She brought herself up; she had no parents; she’s pulled herself up in the world.  Minnie starts off in the play as a caterpillar and by the end she’s this butterfly and flies off.

It is almost 100 years since the performance of Sean O’Casey’s play caused riots in the Abbey Theatre.Is there a relevance today in the themes of O’Casey’s work that angered so many back then?

“That is Sean O’Casey’s gift, he was writing so close to the actual events and timelines, at the foundation of our country, but he was also writing about human beings.  And I think those things are universal and stand the test of time. 

“Everything that we see Minnie go through, it’s so relevant today for young girls, for older women, for everybody, trying to navigate around worlds and how we see ourselves.”

“He surrounds those huge topics with loads of joy and fun. And you’re laughing one minute, hysterically, and within a second, everything changes. There’s so much joy and life, and romance and hope and potential and shadow.

“I think that’s why it lands so heavily when ultimately things take a turn.”

Caitríona will be part of the tour going to 11 theatres.

“I think that’s so important that you get a chance to see theatre in your own area and in your own local theatre. As  a group of actors we were all absolutely buzzing to go around the country and it’s really exciting.

“I love Limerick, a lot of my friends come down to see me in Limerick, so they are coming again to see Shadow down there.”

Druid Theatre’s The Shadow of a Gunman plays at Lime Tree Theatre on Friday February 16 and Saturday February 17.