FACING THE MUSIC

The penultimate episode of RTE’s 1916 miniseries ‘Rebellion’ began with surrender.

Driven out of the ruins of the GPO, the leaders of the Easter Rising waved a white flag and marched through the streets of Dublin with Charlie Murphy’s Irish Citizens Army volunteer Elizabeth Butler and her comrade Brian Gleeson’s Jimmy Mahon among their ranks.

As they laid down their arms, Jimmy got a rifle rammed into his belly and Elizabeth was frogmarched into O’Hanlon’s fish shop by her British Army officer fiancé, Stephen Duffy Lyons (played by Paul Reid).

While the rebel leaders faced the music, so too did Stephen.

Elizabeth rebuffed his efforts to persuade her to go back to her life of privilege, telling him: “This is bigger than us, Stephen. I am not going home.”

And so she went to prison with Camille O’Sullivan’s Countess Constance Markievicz instead.

Faced with the embarrassment of an insurrection on his watch, Tom Turner’s senior British civil servant Charles Hammond was told a resignation letter was being prepared for him.

Angered by this revelation from his boss, Charles pointed out he had been raising the prospect of a rebellion to his superiors for weeks.

Charles faced an even greater challenge at home as his wife Vanessa, played by Perdita Weeks, confronted him with his pregnant mistress May, played by Sarah Greene.

In a stinging, yet entirely predictable move, Charles denied, at his wife’s behest, he was still in love with May.

And so May left the Hammond family home fighting back the disappointment.

Meanwhile Jimmy’s British soldier brother Arthur, played by Barry Ward, was informed of his young son Peter’s death near the GPO.

As he came to terms with the news, he went into Jimmy’s prison cell, beat him and then hugged him.

Arthur was refused, however, compassionate leave to attend his boy’s funeral.

In a heartbreaking scene, Gus McDonagh’s Monsignor Mulcahy informed Arthur’s wife, Lydia McGuinness’s Peggy Mahon of her son’s death – handing the boy’s sling back to her apologetically.

Meanwhile Ruth Bradley’s Irish Republican Brotherhood volunteer Frances O’Flaherty continued to wander the streets without attracting the attention of the authorities.

After a reconciliation with May, Frances told her: “The battle has been fought but the war is just beginning.”

The most controversial moment of the night was undoubtedly a scene where a British soldier humiliated Lalor Roddy’s Thomas Clarke, stripping him naked and inviting his comrades to look “at your President – king of the Fenians.”

The scene will no doubt be a talking point on RTE radio shows tomorrow.

Charles Hammond had a showdown with Brian McCardle’s wounded James Connolly in a makeshift hospital ward in Dublin Castle.

Connolly queried why his foot should be saved by Sophie Robinson’s nurse Ingrid Webster and predicted the British authorities would show their true colours in their treatment of the leaders of the Rising.

As we’ve come to expect from ‘Rebellion’, episode four was a bit of a curate’s egg.

There was some decent acting from Charlie Murphy, Brian Gleeson, Barry Ward and most notably, Lydia McGuinness.

A scene where she and her daughters gratefully received food from Michelle Fairley’s Dolly Butler in the kitchen of her posh home was nicely acted.

Director Aku Louhimies also delivered once again a handsome looking production that moved along at a decent pace.

However persistent weaknesses in Teevan’s script continued to undermine all this good work, with the writer tending to engage in frothy melodrama.

The showdown between Charles Hammond, his wife Vanessa and his pregnant mistress May was full of all the hysteria viewers have come to expect from this soap opera sub-plot.

Michael Ford Fitzgerald’s rakish Harry Butler (Elizabeth’s brother) has also become a bit of a pantomime villain.

A scene where he stole from his father Edward’s study and set up Jordanne Jones’ newly hired servant Minnie Mahon was laughable, relying far too heavily on coincidence.

There was much amusement on Twitter too as Steve Wall’s Detective Coleman dismissed Michael Collins as a nobody while Jimmy, Thomas Clarke and other rebels were singled out for trial under Martial Law and execution.

This was the poorest of the four episodes of ‘Rebellion’ so far and while this viewer is sticking to the bitter end, it is more out of a sense of duty than expectation.

Several of the characters of ‘Rebellion’ may have been facing the music but there were plenty of bum notes in this episode.

(Dan McGinn is the film critic for Belfast 89FM’s ‘Saturday Bites’ programme and regularly reviews the latest film and television releases on the blog They’ll Love It In Pomona (http://loveitinpomona.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/mother-and-son.html)).

  • erasmus

    I found it frustrating and irritating. The most infuriating thing is
    that the Rising is tailor-made for gripping historical drama. Peter de
    Rosa avowed that only the opening stages of the Spanish Civil War had
    comparable emotional puissance in 20th century European history. All
    that was needed was to assemble a team of good actors and play out the
    events and narrative as they happened. It was said of F S Lyons that he
    achieved the impossible: he made Irish history boring. This lot have
    done an FS Lyons here with a vengeance.

    The most famous action of the Rising (Mount Street Bridge — the ‘Irish
    Thermopylae’) was made nothing more than a Bonnie and Clyde shoot out. A fraction of the time that was
    devoted to the fictional Charles Hammond’s marital travails would have
    sufficed to include Pearse’s riveting oration at his court martial.
    Leaving this out is like leaving out the Gettysburg Address in a Lincoln
    biopic. And leaving out James Connolly’s final moments is like watching
    an adaptation of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ with Sidney Carleton’s demise
    expunged.There is also the disconcerting portrayal of Countess Markiewicz as a gangster’s moll with an (ahistorical) Dub accent. I could go on and on.

    I could have done with less bedroom stuff and more portrayal of somewhat
    more relevant (and non-fictional) events in the GPO. If I wanted to
    watch a period drama about the romantic entanglements of upper class English I
    would have watched Downtown Abbey.

    The definitive 1916 epic is a film/series screaming out to be made. It
    has yet to be made. And I am not talking about a sanitized, green-tinted
    version of events. Just an accurate portrayal of actual events with a balanced approach to all dramatis personae.

    Thinking it over the penny dropped:

    RTE want to recover their six million by selling it on to our nearest
    neighbour where, let’s face it, Irish history will not have much pulling
    power. A generous dollop of Downtown Abbey stuff and a dilution of the
    politically sensitive material is required to make the medicine go down.

  • tmitch57

    RTE can also no doubt sell it to Netflix for streaming in Amerca and sell it to several European countries such as France, Italy, Belgium, Germany and Poland. So it needn’t worry about the political sensitivities of any individual market as long as the miniseries contains compelling drama and factually correct historical material.

  • Croiteir

    In other words – don’t annoy the Prods

  • Jag

    Dan, you should have switched over to RTE 1 last night where RTE showed a programme where Padraig Pearse, the most prominent of the 1916 rebels, was visited in his prison cell by a barrister acting for the British prosecution of the rebels, a prosecution which ultimately resulted in executions.

    Padraig Pearse, a barrister himself, rejected for himself, and seemingly for his fellow leaders of the Rebellion, a defence which, even if proven, would not have resulted in the death penalty. Pearse admitted and didn’t offer any defence to the charge of insurrection, even though it was for the British to prove their case and the British barrister felt this would have been difficult if not impossible.

    The upshot – Pearse needlessly sacrificed himself and the other leaders of the Rebellion. An utter fabrication by RTE. No wonder the Twittersphere was apoplectic at RTE afterwards. Maybe they should have just watched the pleasant programme you watched.

  • Dan

    has this guff had the Free State audience gripped?

  • Greenflag 2

    “And the British barrister felt this would have been difficult if not

    impossible ”

    Why would it have been difficult ? In the middle of a World War thousands of armed rebels/revolutionaries / freedom fighters take over the biggest city in Ireland in broad daylight and you say that the barrister would have found it difficult to prove the then British Government would’nt have been able to prove their case ?.

    Perhaps the barrister was just ‘feeling ‘ and not actually thinking with the little grey cells in his head with which nature surely endowed him.

  • Greenflag 2

    The first law in business is you better know how to sell it before you make it !
    Sex and violence sells and very much so for today’s short attention span limited mass audiences for popular entertainment . No different for the makers of this film as it is for the manufacturers of the new Lexus etc etc .
    Its ‘marketing ‘ and popular entertainment .

  • Greenflag 2

    Its just business – sell it and keep selling it .

  • Zig70

    The most damning thing I heard was that it was trying too hard to be a BBC costume drama. A kind of euphemism for the evolution of the south.

  • Greenflag 2

    They are not showing this TV series in the Orange Free State . South Africans are not that interested -They have more important economic and social problems on their plate !

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    While on the subject of sex and violence in drama, a lot more could have been
    made of the sex and violence that is inherent in the actual events and
    characters. The spirited amazons of The Rising are sexy enough
    particularly as sisters fighting as equals to the fellas; where the
    casting of the larger than life Camille O’Sullivan as Markiewicz
    looks like casting genius but was a wasted opportunity (not least in
    dialect coaching). I know that it’s purported to be about the impact on the lives of a broad section and not so much an examination of those who’ve gone down in history but even there potential is squandered such as widespread prostitution close to the barracks, etc. The lusty local lass wrapping the Colonial
    Administrator with a kink for the native, round her finger is a story line with freedom to go anywhere. Instead it’s reduced to inspid, drawing room tedium with banal dialogue, no urgency of plot and little sense of the resistance of the colonised individual. Couldn’t they at least have put her on top in that hotel bedroom scene? The politics of sex after all.
    My main disappointment with the series is the clumsy depiction of many of the individual characters. The middle class family of Fitzwilliam Sq preoccupied with carrying on oblivious could benefit from more original dialogue considering the predicaments they’ve found themselves in.
    The buttoned up zealotry to maintain the King’s empire at any cost could have been balanced more effectively against the heroic fanaticism of Pearse, the latter appearing as calmly noble with no inner workings. The post surrender scenes hold the possibility of much greater dramatic irony such as the doubt that dejection through defeat brings although the humiliation of the defeated was deftly handled.
    As we already know what happened it’s not a bad idea to depict the imagined lives of those who didn’t ask to be involved. However, the screenplay seems to err on the side of flatness in dramatic exploration of these characters and I feel that Teevan was too concerned with not toppling some sacred cows (except maybe the sex scene & Lalor Roddy’s nudity).
    There has to be a tightrope walk inherent in writing a drama based on a famous lived event. Nonetheless, there is scope for developing greater light and shade in the characters imagined and in their differing and altering motivations.
    I thought that avoiding any headiness of the moment as the rebellion got underway was a great touch of anti-climax early showing the hubris in the real drama. However, the retaliatory might of the British Empire wasn’t the all guns blazing showdown that had in reality occurred. Without that the Brits look reasonable & cool headed instead of the recurrently over-reactive that Irish history shows and that CGI could have.
    If the Easter Rising was the spark that ignited a nationwide desire for independence after it initially was dismissed as a disruptive damp squib or doomed act of vanity then that has its own dramatic potential and that is underexploited so far. It’ll be interesting to see how the 4th instalment captures what this turning point in history unleashed. I want to see Sackville Street in ruins but I don’t expect any more unconvincing sex scenes.

  • SDLP supporter

    “And it is not too late for their relatives to bring suits against the British state.”

    Oh, get a grip on yourself, gendjinn. 100 years after the event. What about legal actions on behalf of the 45 children killed and the 100+ Dublin civilians killed during Easter Week? Who do they sue? Would the very wealthy Plunkett family (Joseph Mary P’s family were very wealthy landlords) be a mark? What court do you bring the case to? Is it all done on legal aid?

  • SDLP supporter

    Didn’t you get the memo from Connolly House?:Gerry Adams has said that republicans can’t be criminals!