I saw this film largely because my History teacher was part of the chorus, and she offered to organize the booking of the tickets to see the show. And I am very glad she did. As a history lover and student, I love nearly every other aspect of history aside from Irish history. It may be because I was not born Irish and don't feel any connection whatsoever to this land's history, or may be because I just don't find it interesting at all, but I never really cared for it. However, seeing this show changed my view of Irish history completely.
Michael Collins is about, as you may have guessed it, Michael Collins. It focuses largely on the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, causing a split in the Dáil and giving birth to two of the most prominent parties in Irish politics today: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. The musical also touches the love triangle between Kitty Kiernan, Michael Collins, and his best friend, Harry Boland. It is told largely through the eyes of one Joe Emmett, who was an avid supporter, and, as I saw it, a protégé of Michael Collins. The show also featured Éamon De Valera of course, Cathal Brugha, Arthur Griffith, and as I've already mentioned Kitty Kiernan, and Harry Boland. There was an element of a play within a play in the show as the WB Yeats narrative Cathleen Ni Houlihan is performed in extracts in parallel to the events of the musical itself. The ever-present albeit slightly creepy character of Mother Ireland was also featured in the show.
Seeing this musical was an incredibly emotional experience for me. It made me feel incredibly patriotic for Ireland, which, for me, is a huge deal because only five years ago I didn't have any connection to Ireland whatsoever. The acting, the costumes, the choreography, and of course, the music was so on-point and it made me feel so proud not only for the actors in the musical (some of whom I know), but also for Ireland. The excellent work of the people of the show gave me feelings of loyalty and allegiance for this country, which, if I am being honest, I've never really felt anywhere else. By the heart-breaking ending of the musical, I was in bits. It is an emotional and more personal take on the Irish history that I really only learned from my History textbook. It made the facts and statistics of a textbook become real and close to heart.
As well as that, the charismatic character of Michael Collins has to be recognized. I may or may not have developed a slight crush for a dead guy after seeing the show. I loved the song, "Voice of Reason," especially near the beginning of the musical when he was only starting to attract more followers. He is such an enigma, and if this adaptation of his character is in any way at all accurate to how he truly was when he was alive, then I see why the Irish people loved him so much. The "Voice of Reason" is also in one of my favorite scenes of the musical, the debate between the Pro-Treaty people, and the Anti-Treaty people. I especially loved it when Arthur Griffith stood up and said something along the lines of, "I don't aspire to be written as part of history, but if I am, I would like myself to be associated with the name "Michael Collins!" except more articulate and with a lot more emotion. There was also a line that The Big Fella (never knew he was called that!) said when he ran a little late for the ceremony to take down the british flag. The English officer says "You're seven minutes late, Mr. Collins." He replies, "You've kept us waiting 700 years. You can have your seven minutes."
On a very personal take, a lot of reflection came about from seeing the musical. In a few months, I will be getting my Irish citizenship, which means that whenever somebody asks me what my nationality is, I will have to start getting used to saying that I am Irish. For a few years now I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I was in this limbo where I'm not culturally updated with my own country and the only thing connecting me to the place I was born was the people in my life who lived there, and of course of the memories of growing up in my hometown. But at the same time I didn't really identify in being Irish either, although I spent five very formative years of my life adapting the culture, the traditions, and the language of this place. I suppose I am still in that limbo, and I guess will forever be in that limbo. My relationship with my own native country, the Philippines, is very complicated, and is something that I will have to talk about in another post. My point is... I don't know. I guess I don't really have a point, except that this musical brought about a lot of feelings in me, in regards to my roots and my connection to the world around me. So thank you, Kilkenny Musical Society, for giving me an existential crisis.
All joking and philosophical thoughts aside, needless to say I thought the musical was an incredible masterpiece. It reminded me a lot of Les Miserables, except, as I've said, closer and more intimate. I am incredibly sorry for the people who never got to see it, but if you ever get the chance, I strongly urge you to! It will not disappoint you. Five out of five.
|The Big Fella, with Kitty Kiernan in the background|