PRESS RELEASE: Traditional Irish Wake in Danger of Dying Out, Says Playwright James McAnespy

Traditional Irish Wake in Danger of Dying Out, Says Playwright James McAnespy

Omagh-born playwright James McAnespy says that the tradition of the Irish wake is in danger of dying out amidst the frenzy of modern life.

The writer, 28, has expressed concern that the increased pressures of modern lifestyles and increased youth emigration threatens the viability of the tradition of sitting up in vigil for the deceased in a wake house.

His comedy, Sitting Up for Michael, which makes it’s London premiere in the White Bear Theatre in Kennington in April, is set at a contemporary wake house in Clogher in county Tyrone on a wintery January night, and is a snapshot of the custom that’s still observed in rural areas. 

“Irish wakes are a very unique form of mourning,” McAnespy said. “If the person that died had a good long life, it allows the mourners to celebrate their life with fond and often funny memories, as well as providing a platform for people to offer their condolences.

“It is unfortunate that we are already seeing the tradition is being practised less and less in cities within Ireland, and it’s particularly difficult to get a wake organised outside of Ireland.”


James McAnespy as Rory in Sitting Up for Michael

The comedy, which McAnespy will also be acting in, is a bittersweet comedy about the tensions that arise when truths within families and communities come to the surface, especially when emotions are already high and liberated by drink. Through this prism, he explores themes of family, bereavement, youth unemployment, bullying and many other aspects of 21st century life in Ireland.

“Everyone has been to a wake,” McAnespy said, “and people will recognise the characters in the play that are in every small town in Ireland.”
The play is the second half of a comedy double bill that also includes his play, C.L.G., a rip-roaring two-man play about the acrimony that festers between GAA clubs if they are at close quarters.
“I just thought it would be funny to lock two rival GAA members in a changing room, and let them slug out the verbals,” he said. “They have to decide on a neutral venue for their first championship clash in 9 years, and as we all know, there’s nothing more unpalatable than giving up an inch to your nearest neighbour!” 
C.L.G./Sitting Up for Michael Double Bill is playing in the White Bear Theatre in Kennington from April 8-27.  Tickets are now on sale at www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk and www.kingsfool.net priced at £14/£10. No online booking fee applies.

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