Green Street is an off-site theatre piece produced by Percolate, in one of the oldest and significantly important historical building in Dublin Green Street Court. The court was built in 1797, and many important trials have been conducted there down through the years. In 1798 John and Henry Sheares the United Irish leaders were executed after a trail through the night by candlelight. John Mitchel editor of the United Irishman was sentenced to transportation to Australia in 1848, and in 1883 the 5 invincible were sentenced to death here for the Phoenix murders. In 1973 Martin McGuiness Northern Ireland’s current first minister was convicted of IRA membership at Green Street. But by far the most famous trail to have taken place at Green Street was that of Robert Emmet found guilty of treason for his part in the 1803 rebellion.
The play Green Street has a large cast and the audience was split up in to groups of 12-15 people, and each accompanied by a cast member dressed as a junior barrister are lead off to different rooms within the court house. In total Green Street was acted out in 5 different rooms, a holding cell, the judge’s chamber, a room with 2 barristers, the court registrar office, and finally the court room where we the audience become spectators in the trails.
In all there are 3 different trails which are woven into one story of Green Street. The 1882 Maantrasna Murders where eight men stood trail for the brutal murder of a family in Co. Mayo. The 1976 trail of Marie and Noel Murray who were tried for the capital murder of Garda Michael Reynolds, and the trial of Robert Emmet in 1803. As we moved about each room we learn a little about the decision making of the courts, its past through the various enactments from the Maantrasna Murders and the Emmett trail. The scene in the Judges chamber was very powerful; we enter a large room with a large dark wood table and chairs, on the table a judge’s wig and a large hard backed ledger. Soon the Judge (Danielle O’Neill) enters and looks around the room, beginning to outline the role and responsibility of the judge as he makes eye contact with everyone in the room. You feel the sense of power a judge must command in the court room. He begins to robe up, while continuing to speak we hear of intimidation and security involved in the job. Briefly he mentions how if the evidence supported the conviction of a women, he would impose sentence to hang for her crimes. The final scene of the play is delivered in the courtroom; it is here that all evidences from the 3 trails is presented to the court. We rise and sit on the entry of a judge in a normal courtroom. Each of the defendants is bought into the dock high up at the back of the court and to the right of the Judge.
The setting and atmosphere were as you expect in a court room. The Murray trail was interesting as I just about remember it taking place, but I was probably unaware at the time that their conviction for the murder of a Guard actually carried a death sentence, it was appealed and the sentence was changed to life imprisonment. In 1990 the law was finally amended and the death penalty was abolished.
Between each presentation of evidence two courtroom hacks (Enda Kilroy) and (Rachel Dowling) provides the background information surrounding the case as the write up their copy for the press. The torment of those on trial during these times must have been horrific knowing if found guilty it would mean death.
Most who have attended school in Ireland will have covered Emmett’s speech in the dock at some point in history class, but to sit in the same court room with Emmet (Elliot Moriarty) deliver those same words from that same dock was hair-raising. Robert Emmet who was an excellent debater and had a good education but to deliver such a speech must rank as an extraordinary oration while faced with death. If you not familiar here is the final section of that speech. (The link to the entire speech)
Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance, asperse them. Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remain uninscribed, and my memory in oblivion, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.
The following day Emmet was to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Thomas Street.
Green Street was a wonderful site-specific piece of theatre at Absolut Fringe, and presents great potential to open up to a wider audience further historical re-enactments particularly in the lead up to 1916
Green Street by Sarah Binchy, Gill McCaw, Geoff Power, Pauline Shanahan
Produced by: Percolate
Location: Green Street Court Room.
Dates September 14-22
Times 7pm and 9pm each day
Duration 75 minutes
© Tom Dowling image by Tom Dowling and portrait image from Wikipedia.
Please see other reviews from Absolut Fringe 2012 in the theatre section.