Reviews for ‘To Have To Shoot Irishmen’


“The beauty of Nunnery’s storytelling technique is her use of original songs to deepen the emotional heft of the story” 
The Stage


‘Tumbling poetry and lively dialogue power Lizzie Nunnery’s dynamic song-led show set during the Easter Rising’
The Guardian

The Guardian – Review

“Lizzie Nunnery’s To Have To Shoot Irishmen delivers emotionally charged performances and a narrative that remains painfully relevant today” 
Stage Review  

“The actors take Lizzie Nunnery’s colourful, vivid script and bring such heart to a very affecting piece”
The Spy in the Stalls

“A stunning production” 
British Theatre Guide

A play with songs that works in the most achingly beautiful way – To Have To Shoot Irishmen is quietly stunning”
There Ought To be Clowns







Meet… Gemma Kerr

Gemma image
Gemma is the director for ‘To Have To Shoot Irishmen’


Have you ever worked with playwright Lizzie Nunnery before? What brought you to this particular project?

I’ve known Lizzie a good few years and I’ve worked with her through projects with Almanac Arts and short plays with the Everyword Festival at the Liverpool Everyman, but this is the first full-length play we’ve collaborated on. Lizzie brought the play to me about three years ago and asked if I’d be interested in directing it. I don’t think I would ever turn down the opportunity to work with Lizzie, and this play immediately had something very special about it. Frank and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington were a fascinating couple, ahead of their time in many, many ways, and the way in which their story intersects with that of the Easter Rising in Dublin, just opens up all of those questions of ‘what might have been?’ ‘how might history have happened if this moment had played out in a different way?’. It’s a moment in time, a really extraordinary moment of tension and possibility, and this play considers not just that moment, but what happens to those who are left to pick up the pieces. So it resonates very much, even today.

What are the challenges in directing a play based around a real-life event with characters that did exist?

To start with, Lizzie has done an amazing job in honouring the voices of the play. With Frank and Hanna particularly, it’s possible to read a lot of their own words, because of their speeches and writing which were documented. And Frank, or ‘versions’ of Frank, appear in some of James Joyce’s writing because he and Frank were close friends and Joyce based a couple of characters on him. And that’s really interesting because it gives you a kind of sideways perspective on him as a person.

It’s important to hold onto the fact that these are people who existed but they are also characters in a play, and to find the truth in the writing. I hope that the production will satisfy those who know the story of the Sheehy Skeffingtons, but for a huge number of people who come to see it, this will be a new story, one that hasn’t been heard, so I don’t think it’s something that you can let overwhelm the need to engage the audience in a narrative.

The conflict in the play comes from four people who believed very strongly and passionately, that they were on the side of what was right. So I think we’re trying hard not to present a polemic, but to articulate some of the inconsistencies and struggles of human nature that make up the ‘truth’ of this story.

How much research do you do? Where do you draw the line and go back to the script?

I love research, and obviously with a subject like this, there’s a huge amount written and documented, so it really could go on and on. I think with this, it’s been helpful to keep the research really connected to the play and the story, so always using the script as the hand that directs you to research, so you don’t go into a rabbit warren of endless reading. We’ve been lucky to have Professor Gerry Smyth come and talk to us in our rehearsal room, and he distilled, for us, a very vivid picture of Dublin at the time, so that kind of expertise is invaluable.

What are the biggest challenges facing someone starting out as a theatre director today?

Theatre can feel very competitive and there’s a pressure to be fully ‘up’ with everything that’s happening, and inevitably other people’s successes can make you feel that things are passing you by. The vast majority of us are freelance, and that can be really isolating. It’s important to find the people who can be your support network, the people you can talk about your work with, the people you can share your insecurities with, the people who are excited by what you’ve got to say, the people you can fail with. All of that helps you feel connected to something, and strengthens your voice.

What are you most excited with ‘To Have To Shoot Irishmen’?

I’m excited it’s happening after a long journey of bringing it together. I’m excited by the brilliant actors who are bringing it to life in the rehearsal room, it’s wonderful to be working with music and song and movement and creating all of that together. On a personal note, bringing this production to the Everyman, which was my first theatre, has always been my favourite theatre, is particularly thrilling, and I still can’t quite believe my luck.


Meet… Alex Stringer

Alex is the assistant producer for ‘To Have To Shoot Irishmen’


You’ve just graduated from Young Everyman Playhouse Producers scheme: how has that changed you and what has it taught you? 

I think I’ve learnt a lot from the scheme about how different producing in a theatre is, from working as a freelancer. Personally, I had lived away from Liverpool for four years so it was a great introduction back into the arts network within the city. I felt like I came back and knew no one anymore so it was lovely to create new bonds and establish new connections. I thought I knew what a producer was before the scheme began, but the little I knew about marketing, press, budgets & funding etc.. before, has developed so much just from soaking it all in and learning from the experts. The 12-14 hour days haven’t scared me away either, yay! 

What are the biggest challenges facing someone starting out as a theatre producer in the UK today?

I find that the biggest challenge is making it all work. When the expectation when you’re just starting out is that you’ll work for free and you have a part time or full time job too, it is a constant balancing act. I’ve been producing freelance now for the past three years and only now am I starting to feel comfortable and confident in asserting that I’ll only work for a company/show if I’m paid. 

There must be a lot of highs and lows. What have been your best and most difficult moments as a producer so far? 

My best moment was most probably getting a 5-star review for mine and my peers’ final show as part of the Young Producers Scheme, ‘The Way I See It’ from The Echo. Also, being recommended for producing jobs is a wonderful feeling. The most difficult has probably been when I’ve had to be ‘the bad guy’ because of one thing or another out of my control. This, however, is a really minor thing and the positives always outweigh the negatives.

What one piece advice would you give someone who wants to produce theatre?

Try to remember everyone you meet/talk to as you never know how you could help one another in the future.

This is your first professional touring production. How is it different from creating festival work or shows for a single location?

There is lots more to consider with multiple venues and their teams (as of yet, I haven’t met a venue I didn’t like, especially Omnibus Theatre, who I’ve been working with for the first time on this project) more travel & accommodation to consider and most importantly, I feel, as a producer, completely different audiences. One marketing plan might not work for another etc.. so you’re almost starting fresh with each venue you go to which is exciting but daunting! I think when you believe in the show you’re producing/assisting on though, you can’t go wrong. It’s surprisingly hard to sell a show you don’t like. 

When you have a challenging day as a Producer, what song do you play to motivate you or lift you up?

Don’t Kill My Vibe by Sigrid, just reminds me to get rid of all the self-doubt.

Meet… Rachael Rooney

Rachael is the designer for ‘To Have To Shoot Irishmen’


When did you first discover you had a family link to the Sheehy Skeffington’s? How did it come about?

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington is my great-grandmother’s cousin, I first discovered this from my auntie, Patricia. She was doing some research into the family history and was drawn to Hanna because of her feminist spirit. Patricia and I are quite similar, in the sense that we share egalitarian values, so she told me about Hanna because she knew that I would also find her very interesting.

Was that partly what drew you to ‘To Have to Shoot Irishmen’? Did the creative team know from the start that you were a relation of the characters?

I couldn’t believe it when I first opened the first page of the script for, ‘To Have To Shoot Irishmen’ and I saw Hanna and Francis’ name on the character list. After reading the script, it made a lot of sense to write a play about their story and I knew that I wanted to be involved in bringing it to other people.

When I had the interview for the job to design the play I did not mention my relation to the characters, mainly because I wanted to get the job based on my ideas. However, I did tell Lizzie, Gemma and Vidar after I was offered the job in our first meeting.

You recently met Hanna’s granddaughter Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, who is a feminist activist like her grandmother. What was it like to speak to her?

I met Micheline Sheehy Skeffington at an exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland, about Women’s Suffrage and Citizenship in Ireland. I spoke to her after the event about a case she won against the university she works for, who did not promote her because of her gender. She was very friendly and inspiring.

Do you feel Hanna’s feminist spirit has been passed down the generations to you?

My parents have called me ‘Hanna’ when I have become passionate about a feminist issue, so they would certainly say so. I have also been involved in environmental activist groups. I think I have a personality type found in my family that is driven to speak out against social injustices and one that can be slightly rebellious, at times.

This is your first professional theatre design. How has your knowledge of the real-life Frank and Hanna informed the design? Do you feel they’re in some way watching over you as you work?

Having knowledge of the real-life Francis and Hanna, has informed my costume designs. When working with characters in a script, I normally imagine what the characters would look like and what they would wear, but my familiarity with them. has meant that I am inspired by real life.

Before I had the interview for the design job, I debated whether I should mention my family connections to the characters. My decision not to, was reaffirmed by the fact that I could imagine that Hanna would have agreed with me, that I should get the job based on my talent and not who I am related to. I feel that their moral values have inspired some of my decisions in this process.