RTÉ drama series to mark Easter Rising commemoration

‘Rebellion’ will tell the story of Easter Week through fictional characters

RTÉ has announced details of a five-part television drama series which will be the centrepoint of its Easter Rising commemoration schedule next year.

Rebellion will take five hours of broadcast time and will tell the story of Easter Week 1916 through a number of fictional characters. It will feature most of the main protagonists of Easter Week, including Pádraig Pearse and James Connolly, but they will not be the main focus.

Actors Brian Gleeson, Charlie Murphy (Love/Hate) and Sarah Greene (Vikings) have been confirmed for the series which begins shooting in the summer and will air in the first quarter of 2016.

RTÉ's head of drama Jane Gogan declined to state how much Rebellion would cost, but confirmed that it would be more than Charlie, this year's drama centred on Charles Haughey. Charlie is estimated to have cost €4 million.

Rebellion will be produced by Zodiak Media Ireland and Touchpaper Television in association with Element Pictures. It will be written by Colin Teevan who also wrote Charlie.

“He is fantastic in dealing with real events,” Ms Gogan said. “He is a brilliant researcher and very inventive in terms of how to weave fictional characters through real-life events which require a huge amount of accuracy while always remembering that this is a drama. “It is a drama that will be very aware that what we know 100 years later is not what they would have known at the time.”

Ms Gogan said she anticipates that Rebellion would also find an international audience. "It will do very well in the world," she said. "It is something that will be of big interest to British audiences."

Zodiak Rights will be distributing the programme internationally. "The excellent scripts written by Colin Teevan bring the characters and the drama to life, and we have no doubt that this ambitious and returnable series will find many fans internationally," Zodiak Rights spokeswoman Caroline Torrance said.

The serial begins in 1914. Europe is at war and Britain is preoccupied with the German threat, but the focus switches in 1916 towards the rebellion.

The other main focus of RTÉ's 1916 coverage will be a €2.8 million documentary, mostly funded by the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Production design

The Irish Rebellion will be narrated by Liam Neeson.

A 70-minute cinematic version of the documentary will be premiered at the National Concert Hall on March 16th, 2016, and will be shown simultaneously in Irish Embassies across the world to local audiences.

A three-part version of the documentary will be broadcast on RTÉ at a date to be decided next year.

The documentary aims to internationalise the events of Easter Week 1916 and to place them in their historical, political and cultural contexts as the precursor to an independent Irish State and the disintegration of colonial empires.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times