'In 1916, at
The Abbey Theatre Dublin, my Great Uncle, T.H.Nally was preparing to premiere
his very first play The Spancel of Death
, produced by the Poet W.B.Yeats and
Lady Augusta Gregory. It was a very personal play for him, as it was a true
account of our ancestor who had a rather unfortunate run in with Black Magic in
Balla, County Mayo 1777. It was considered a very subversive play, critical of
the church and a bold statement against the ruling class. Set to perform Easter
week it was cancelled when the cast dropped their scripts and grabbed their
weapons to join the Easter Uprising. The play has yet to be performed, even to
this very day.
Last Easter I took
part in the 1916 commemorations in Dublin and thanks to the Abbey Theatre and
national archives, I was able to piece together a full script of “The Spancel
of Death” and the correspondence between him and W.B.Yeats. I am staging a
reading of this lost play to uncover these ancestral treasures, so, as an
emerging playwright myself, I can then respond to his play with my own writing
and stage my very own act of cultural rebellion.
My Great Uncle T.H.
stresses that all of this is ‘based on absolute fact’, even the dialect is strictly of its time and place
and it is a true study of not only my family’s origins but also the pre-uprising tensions and the
sources of the uprising itself. I want to create a continuum between his work
and mine. I believe his words deserve to be heard, so, after a brief break of
one hundred and one years we can finally enjoy “The Spancel of Death.' - Aoife Nally
This is the inaugural project for ‘Insatiable Theatre Productions’ founded by Aoife Nally as a platform to create new work exploring ancient themes. Concurrent to ‘The Spancel of Death’ she has an immersive musical theatre project “Hallowed Ground” based on the Elusian Mysteries, now in development.
This project is part of Plays Without Décor