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Exciting on-site Soviet show in Limerick

Saturday, 13th April, 2019 9:00am
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Exciting on-site Soviet show in Limerick

Actor Kit Thompson during rehearsals for 'Bread, Not Profits' at the Cleeves Factory. PHOTOGRAPH: CALEB PURCELL (@CALEBPURCELLPHOTOGRAPHY)

Exciting on-site Soviet show in Limerick

Actor Kit Thompson during rehearsals for 'Bread, Not Profits' at the Cleeves Factory. PHOTOGRAPH: CALEB PURCELL (@CALEBPURCELLPHOTOGRAPHY)

A new theatrical performance with a difference opens in Limerick next week to mark the centenary of a worker-led protest against British rule in the city.

The performance will be staged at the old Cleeves condensed milk factory site at Lansdowne, which stood at the time some 14,000 people joined a citywide Soviet in the face of the British military occupation of Limerick in 1919. Though scarcely recalled today, the event captured world media attention at the time amid widespread anticipation that Communism would spread in Ireland.


'Bread, Not Profits' will feature a combination of immersive and promenade performance styles. The audience will be brought through this historically important site and into the world of Limerick in 1919, when the might of the British Empire was challenged by the worker-led protest. The audience will see the strike committee, armed with just a printing press and the support of the workers of Limerick, navigate an international media frenzy, food shortages and issue their own tender, the 'Soviet Shilling'.


Writer Mike Finn described 'Bread, Not Profits' as a “big production, big stage, big cast and big crew” show. He has been working on it on-and-off for the last four years and said it is timely to run it now, a hundred years to the month on from when those seismic events happened in Limerick.


The local playwright, whose previous work includes 'Pig Town' and 'A Quiet Moment', said the iconic Cleeves factory was chosen for the venue as it is the last remaining factory of the period, and it is owned by the city. He revealed that some of the scenes in the show happen simultaneously. The audience will be divided into three groups and people will witness the scenes in different order.


“So the audience will have to move around a bit!” Mike said. Despite the tumultuous subject matter, there are lighthearted, even comedic elements to proceedings, as is the case with everything that Mike writes.


In creating 'Bread, Not Profits', he wanted to recapture what he described as a pivotal point in his city's history, events that most people are not aware of ever happening.


“It probably was the biggest story in Ireland at that time,” Mike said. “There was a possibility that the strike would become a national strike as a way of trying to force the British to the negotiating table. And here you had a Soviet in Catholic Ireland; who would have thought of it!”


He also made the point that Major Woods was planning the world's first trans-Atlantic flight at the time. He didn't make the attempt in the end, but world media were based in Limerick for it and the strike certainly caught their attention. “This was a world news story for about two weeks,” Mike exclaimed.


Brought to life by Gúna Nua Theatre Company, his telling of the story features a strong cast ensemble of familiar Limerick faces and established nationally-recognised performers, as well as new music composed by David Blake ('The Unlucky Cabin Boy', Brad Pitt Light Orchestra). It will open on Wednesday of next week, April 17th (there's a preview show on April 16th), and will run nightly until Saturday, April 27th. The show starts at 7.30pm and runs for about 90 minutes.

Tickets cost €25/€20 and are available from the box office – (061) 953400; see www.limetreetheatre.ie for further information.

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