Before The Hudson and The Liffey

The Hub, Edinburgh International Festival

August 2016

This special event, commissioned to commemorate the early life of James Connolly in Edinburgh on the 100th anniversary year of the Easter Rising, was based on text and picture research by Terry Brotherstone and Hilary Horrocks. Ben directed shaped the event dramaturgically, finding the right structure for the material and dovetailing it with songs selected from James Connolly’s own repertoire and the those of his influences and followers. The event placed Connolly firmly as being shaped by the influences of Edinburgh both architectural and political, with his birthplace on the Cowgate shaping him as much as the voices of Leo Melliet, John Leslie and Patrick Geddes. A superb band of Maeve McKinnon, Aidan O’Rourke and Brian McAlpine joined with the excellent actors Helen Mackay and Kevin Lennon who read extracts from letters, lectures and articles together with scenes from Margareta d’Arcy and John Arden’s The Non-Stop Connolly Show.

Richard Durden, All Edinburgh Theatre

a compelling and vibrant tribute to James Connolly… Mackinnnon’s evocative voice summoning melodies of the period backed by Aidan O’Rourke on fiddle and pianist Brian McAlpine…In director Ben Harrison’s production, the transition from song to acted segments from The Non-Stop Connolly Show by Margaretta D’Arcy and John Arden is seamless. Actors Kevin Lennon and Helen Mackay enter Connolly’s private world and offer one particularly tender scene with his wife Lillie that underpins the production.

Bill Dunlop,

Introduced with aplomb and authority by Terry Brotherstone, who gave an appropriately erudite introduction to Connolly’s early life in Edinburgh… Kevin Lennon and Helen Mackay both gave measured, thoughtful interpretations from the written sources, Maeve Mackinnon likewise of the selection from the lyrics written by Connolly on various, mainly political, topics, ably accompanied by Brian McAlpine on piano and Aidan O’Rourke on fiddle. This unique production…Edinburgh itself has been reluctant to acknowledge its part in his upbringing and formative experiences. Before the Hudson and the Liffey goes some way toward redressing this.