Sacrifice at Easter review: From the bizarre to the beautiful

Cork’s Midsummer Festival’s centrepiece is a triumph


The theatrical centrepiece of Cork's Midsummer Festival Sacrifice at Easter is billed as a creative collaboration between Pat Kiernan, Mel Mercier and Pat McCabe but whatever its provenance, this Corcadorca presentation reasserts the company's supremacy in fusing location and inspiration with undeviating production values.

Blessed by a benign twilight and leading its audience along defensive walkways high over the city, this performance blends its lighting and soundscapes in, around and under the unscalable walls of the Elizabethan fort. A massive Friesian cow of thankfully mild temperament is also present. She may be a commentary on a series of episodes that, within a framing fairy-tale, are themselves an interrogation of modern Ireland and its contemporary intellectual pathos. As an allegory this takes mischief-making to an entertaining extreme, but McCabe is a master of the sly and the subtle, and his punches land like improvised explosives, underpinned by Mel Mercier’s layered and looming sound-score.

A mother boasts to her neighbours that her daughter is now a drugs-mule and is getting on famously in prison; the shoes worn by Patrick Pearse in the GPO perform a duet at an audition; The Song of Bernadette and a candle-lit shrine illuminate a mission for a woman addicted to eating flies in Tubbermore; Charlie's Angels murder Protestants in Northern Ireland; wrapped in a tricolour the sniper Bridie Quilty kills everyone in sight, from Oliver Cromwell to Ant and Dec; a priest remembers a time when "God bless you" was in the air; and Dana's snowdrops and daffodils vanish in a bomb-blast.


Under the mischief and the clues lies the ground-work of a vaporous nationhood darkening like the sky overhead. While Yeats' wistful melody of dream is sung from the ramparts the folk-tale fantasy is swollen to actuality by a powerful cast. With Paul Keogan and Aedin Cosgrove's set and lighting design, Pat Kiernan's purposeful promenade from dark to light and back again becomes a tour of history made visible.

Ends July 2nd

Mary Leland

Mary Leland is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture