Rehearsed readings of 'Juggernaut' (2023)

Written by David Sears
Readings curated by Thomas Conway

Performed from September to November 2023 in:

  • The Pearse Museum, Rathfarnham
  • dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum
  • dlr LexIcon, Dun Laoghaire
  • Presentation Arts Centre, Enniscorthy

Decade of Centenaries project – from 30 September to 25 November 2023

Balally Players presented a forgotten play, David Sears' Juggernaut (1928), in a series of public readings at the Pearse Museum, and the dlr Mill Theatre Studio as part of the Decade of Centenaries, 2023. A full production followed in February 2024 at the LexIcon, Dun Laoghaire.

The project was supported by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 initiative.

Readings of 'Juggernaut' in late 2023
The Pearse Museum in St. Enda's Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin.

The Pearse Museum is the site of the former St Enda's school where the playwright, David Sears, was educated.

What this location brought into question was whether the values Sears learned to cherish in St Enda's are themselves upheld or put on the line through his play. What is likely to emerge is Sears's deep ambivalence over the lessons and stories that fired his romantic imagination as a boy. This public reading took place in an evening curated to reflect the era in which the play is set, with an exhibition related to Sears' life and published works and with musical interludes of songs and tunes from the era performed live. This event brought the past to life and Sears's play back into the light where it has always merited a place.

The Pearse Museum

David Sears wrote his play, Juggernaut, in the early 1920’s and entered it for competition in the Tailteann Games of 1928, which it won. It gained a production from Micheál Mac Liamór and Hilton Edwards, the co-founders of the Gate Theatre a year later. Sears was part of a generation looking to bring Irish theatre into line with progressive cultural movements outside the fledgling state. He was also someone profoundly marked by the revolutions at home. He was a student of Padraic Pearse's at St. Enda's and fought in the Easter Rising and the War of Independence. Sears sought, in his play, to reconcile his experiences of insurrection with recent developments in the Free State. He likewise sought for his dramatic writing a mix of the old and the new. What emerges in the tragedy he set out to write is a beguiling mix of the old—in the form of melodrama—and the new—in the form of drawing-room realism.

Micheal Mac Liamor and Hilton Edwards
Mac Liamór and Edwards

Sears sets the action during the War of Independence, and centres it around a middle-class family whose immunity from the struggle is shattered with the arrival of a wounded gunman looking for refuge. The dilemma for the family is sufficiently clear-cut for the melodrama of high emotion to play out around it. Should the family lie on behalf of a scoundrel whose actions — a murder and a theft — are in breach of the norms of civilised society they uphold? But, in doing so, are they not themselves betraying the bonds that unite all Irish people engaged in a righteous struggle? This dilemma takes on a more acute dimension when the daughter of the household finds herself in love with an officer in the British Army. She comes to realise that his life will be endangered by the Irish rebel should the secrets he has stolen—a list of British operatives in Ireland—reach his superiors. Her central encounters with the rebel and the British officer, respectively, constitute the heart of the play, and they are dramatized with an emotional and ethical complexity to rival the dramas of Noel Coward and R. C. Sherriff playing in the West-End.

The events were curated by Thomas Conway, dramaturg, lecturer and tutor.

Thomas Conway
Thomas Conway

During his time as literary manager and dramaturg with Druid, Thomas Conway gave dramaturgical support to world premières by Tom Murphy, Enda Walsh, Stuart Carolan, Lucy Caldwell, and Meadhbh McHugh and to revivals of plays by Eugene O’Neill, Martin McDonagh, Sean O’Casey, Tom Murphy, William Shakespeare (adapted by Mark O’Rowe) and Samuel Beckett, among others. He has also adapted Shakespeare’s Richard III for Druid. He has edited The Oberon Anthology of Contemporary Irish Plays (2012), bringing into print for the first time the work of Amy Conroy, Mark O’Halloran, Philip McMahon, Lynda Radley, Una McKevitt and Grace Dyas. He has edited two volumes of plays by Tom Murphy: DruidMurphy: Plays by Tom Murphy (2012) and The Mommo Plays (2014). Dramaturgy for independent theatre-makers and choreographers includes work with Michael Keegan Dolan, Pan Pan Theatre Company, Una McKevitt, Dick Walsh, and Painted Bird—the latter an ongoing collaboration with director, Fiona McGeown, to investigate women’s experiences throughout 20th century Ireland. His most recent project, The Lost Tenement Plays of O’Casey’s Dublin was presented at 14 Henrietta Street, the Tenement Museum, in November 2022.

Thomas Conway has taught acting students from many third-level institutions, including the Tisch School at New York University, Trinity College Dublin, National University of Ireland, Galway and The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art. He has been teaching Contemporary Theatre Practices in the Lir Academy’s MFA programme since its commencement in 2011.

The full schedule of rehearsed readings for 2023 was as follows:

  • Sat 30 September 2023 at 2:30pm
  • Sat 25 November 2023 at 2:30pm
  • in the historic Halla Mór of the Pearse Museum at St Enda's Park in Rathfarnham, Dublin, D16 Y7Y5.

  • Fri 6 October 2023 at 8pm
  • Sat 7 October 2023 at 8pm
  • in the dlr Mill Theatre Studio, Dublin, D16 C5X6.

  • Sat 18 November 2023 at 7:30pm
  • in dlr LexIcon, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

The play was also presented in the Presentation Arts Centre in Enniscorthy on 21 October 2023.

Readings of 'Juggernaut' in late 2023
(l-r) Ruth Starr, Gerard Bourke, Murial Caslin-O'Hagan, Helen Dillon and Michael Dillon (photo: Enniscorthy Guardian).

In an article published in the Enniscorthy Guardian, reported on the Balally Players rehearsed reading of 'Juggernaut' in the Presentation Arts Centre in Enniscorthy on 21 October 2023.

The reporter, Sarah Murphy, quoted Front of House and photographer of The Presentation Arts Centre, Conor Gibson, who said that "the play went down a treat, especially amongst local history buffs. It was organised and performed brilliantly. We were delighted they chose Juggernaut and they paid perfect tribute to the play's writer, David Sears. It attracted a lot of local historians, and we would recommend anyone who has the chance to go and see it."


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