Roger Casement at the National Concert Hall

Wonderful Casement material at the National Concert Hall last night. As part of the 1916 Series, Imagining Home, last evening was given the theme ‘Into Europe.’ Curated by Fintan O’Toole, the performances included Owen Roe delivering the speech that George Bernard Shaw had written for Casement to deliver at his treason trial. This speech was described in a recent column in the Irish Times,, but to hear it delivered with a moving blend of resignation and brio by Owen Roe was yet a revelation. Shaw would have had Casement admit all the facts of the case but then insist that as an Irishman he could not really be convicted of treason against a British monarch. Casement would also have insisted that Irish men and Irish women throwing themselves against unimaginable odds was no less and no more an expression of nationality that the futile efforts of the British army at Gallipoli that were currently exciting British patriots. Casement did not accept Shaw’s offer, and while his speech from the dock after sentencing is dignified, the challenge that Shaw threw upon the jurors had given Casement an opportunity of a different measure of immortality; one that these centenary celebrations are steadily restoring to him.

After this performance, came the premiere of Fintan O’Toole’s own new piece about Casement. With the images of a black circle (recalling the rubber tires that move modernity) and of a proffered hand (the stump of a mutilated worker, or the handshake of a perpetrator), O’Toole’s “The Nightmare of Empire/The Dream of Europe” channels Casement’s excoriating attack upon imperialism. In a thrilling performance, Olwen Fouéré drew the full draught of indignation, worried complicity, and principled defiance from O’Toole’s text. Quite an evening.

[Photograph of Olwen Fouéré, from Facebook page of Frances Marshall Photography. Used with permission]