O’Sullivan Beara on stage

On Friday, as part of Culture Night, the Watergate Theatre played host to the great O’Sullivan Beara.

On Friday, as part of Culture Night, the Watergate Theatre played host to the great O’Sullivan Beara.

Playwright, Aidan Dooley, took on the role of one of Ireland’s great chieftains in this enthralling one-man show. This was story-telling as you rarely experience it. Dooley conveyed in 70 minutes what a college lecturer could spend an entire semester trying to teach.

Dressed in contemporary 17th-century attire, it was as if Domhnall O’Sullivan of Beara was standing on stage. Though Dooley opted for a minimalist approach to cast and props, his powerful presence filled the theatre.

The audience found itself accompanying O’Sullivan Beara through the events of the early 1600s. We fought valiantly but to no avail through the Battle of Kinsale, after which O’Sullivan led a mass exodus of Beara. More than 1,000 of his people followed him on foot in an attempt to reach the safety of Breffni, 300 miles north. After thirteen days of gruelling cold, hunger and attacks from local chieftains, we eventually reached the safe-haven of Breffni, but with only thirty-five of the 1,000 we began with.

Though recounting a poignant story, the show was not without humour; Dooley spent the first ten minutes conversing with the audience about the genealogy of their surnames and then jokingly referencing those whose names appeared in his story – the McCarthys were somewhat dim-witted, the Kennedys got going when the going got tough. Aidan Dooley’s performance was greeted with rapturous applause from the packed Watergate Theatre to which he will return in January with his Tom Crean show.