Interview with… Emma O’Kane

Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon spoke to the performer about appearing in These Rooms at the Shoreditch Town Hall from the 4th June. 

Emma O'Kane.jpg
(c) Conor Horgan. 

Hi Emma, thanks for talking to Love London Love Culture – could you tell me a bit more about what These Rooms is all about?  These Rooms is a collaboration between Irish companies ANU Productions and CoisCéim Dance Theatre. It reveals the hidden history of a massacre that happened during the 1916 Rising on North King Street in Dublin. British soldiers raided a terrace of six houses and killed 15 male civilians. Through live performance, the story of the massacre is told from the perspective of the survivors, the female witnesses and from the perpetrators, the British soldiers.

Could you tell me a bit more about you character and how they fit into the story? My character and research for These Rooms is based on Mrs Teresa Hickey who lived with her husband and son on North King Street. They lived above a butcher’s shop, which was their family business. Her husband Thomas and her son Christopher, who was sixteen years of age, were brutally murdered in the massacre. In her own words, Mrs Hickey describes her husband as a “Great Britisher”. For me, that quote encapsulates the complexity of the massacre within context to the political climate in Ireland at the time. In the years following the 1916 Rising Ireland claimed it’s emancipation from British Rule and saw it’s birth as a Republic.

What can audiences expect from the production? These Rooms is an immersive live performance that fuses dance, theatre and visual art to give audiences an inside view of the aftermath of war as you journey side by side with the women and British soldiers seeing their grief laid bare.

ANU+CoisCéim_Emma O'Kane in THESE ROOMS_Photo Pat Redmond
(c)Pat Redmond. 

What did you first think of These Rooms when you first read it? Our research for These Rooms involved reading the testimonies of the 38 female witnesses. The work was created from scratch and all of the artists involved collaborated together to make an original piece of work. It was harrowing and emotional to read the accounts of what had happened. In particular, Mrs Hickey’s story stayed with me and so I focussed my research on her. I couldn’t stop thinking about how displaced and alone she must have felt after the atrocity. It is often the case that history is written by the male victors. In this instance, it was unique and remarkable hearing the female voice and it allowed for the subject matter to be dealt with the humanity that it deserved.

How much of the story were you aware of before being involved with These Rooms?  I had never known about the massacre. We were never taught about it in school.

What made you want to be involved with the production? I am a regular collaborator with both companies as the style of work resonates with who I am as an artist. For me, it was important to tell the stories of the women and give a voice to the victims of the massacre. In the telling of these stories it honours their existence and by doing so one hopes that history is never repeated.

How would you say this story is relevant for 2018?  These Rooms looks at the universality of war and it’s effects and although it happened over 100 years ago the aftermath of war is still the same; people’s lives are shattered and displaced. Ordinary innocent people fall prey to the perils of war and get caught in the crossfire. The injustice of war is just as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.

By Emma Clarendon 

Emma O’Kane performs in ANU Productions & CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s co-production, These Rooms – an immersive dance and theatre production from Ireland that sheds new light on British-Irish relations – runs at Shoreditch Town Hall from 4th – 22nd June  as part of LIFT 2018. For more information visit:

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