If you love poetry, you probably love Yeats and know the poem 'In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz' - the one that begins ‘The light of evening, Lissadell…’. But what do you know of the ‘two girls in silk kimonos’?
You might know that Constance Markievicz went on to become a leader of the Easter Rising. Did you know that she was also the first woman elected to the British Parliament in 1918, and went on to become the first Labour minister in the Dáil? Before that she was an artist and an actress who supported the Dublin workers when they were locked out for belonging to a trade union in 1913.
If you like art, you may have seen Casimir Markievicz’s portrait of his wife Constance as an elegant society lady, but you may not have seen her own portrait of her sister Eva - less formal but completely charming.
Eva Gore-Booth was described by Yeats as ‘withered old and skeleton-gaunt’, ‘an image of such politics’. What politics he does not know - ‘some vague Utopia’ is his guess, but Eva was a very influential radical suffragist, trade unionist and campaigner for conscientious objectors in World War I.
In 1916, Eva managed to prevent her sister being executed for her part in the Easter Rising and later worked hard to save Roger Casement from the gallows. Her work among the Lancashire mill girls produced giant petitions and massive demonstrations. When she campaigned on behalf of barmaids and pit brow lasses, both sets of workers kept their jobs.
What is more, Eva was herself a poet, well known in her day, and she was just as much of a mystic as was Yeats.
Constance and Eva had lives so much more important than being Yeats’s ‘dear shadows’. That is why Lynx Theatre and Poetry is reviving Rebels and Friends, a play that celebrates them with a backdrop of over 500 projected slides, dance, Irish music and poetry. It is touring this autumn, headlining the Liverpool Irish festival on the 25th and 26th October, and kicking off a month celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Bolton Irish Centre.
The play will visit Manchester, York, Sheffield, Newcastle, Stoke-on-Trent, Middlesbrough, Nottingham and Leicester, before ending up in London at the Bread and Roses on the 17th and 18th November and the South London Irish Centre on the 24th and 25th November.
More details are on our website (here). Described the first time around as ‘stunning and evocative’, Rebels and Friends should not be missed!
Written by Jacqueline Mulhallen