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Thomas Fitzgerald and Peter Broderick - Birthright Interview

T.C. Murray’s Birthright has not been seen in London for over 90 years but now Finborough Theatre are teaming up with Ecclesia Theatre for a new production. The production will be directed by Scott Hurran.

Inspired by the biblical story of Esau and Jacob, Birthright is a forgotten masterpiece of Irish theatre.

Birthright was first performed in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in 1910 and was playwright T. C. Murray’s Abbey Theatre debut. It was subsequently seen in both the West End and on Broadway, and toured the USA alongside Synge’s In the Shadow of the Glen where it caused huge controversy among Irish-American audiences. It was last seen in London at the Everyman Theatre, Hampstead, in 1931.

The play is set in Rural Ireland just before the First World War. Where Bat and Maura Morrissey have two fine sons. Hugh is idealistic and accomplished: an altar boy, poet, captain of the hurling team, and pride of his mother. Shane is a born farmer: diligent, obedient, and hardworking. 

Much to Bat’s frustration, tradition dictates that Hugh is set to take over the farm, whilst Shane will be forced to emigrate to America.  Over the course of one day, family ambition collides with Hugh’s birthright, and the close-knit family is torn apart forever…

Ahead of the run at the Finborough Theatre I chatted with actors Thomas Fitzgerald who plays Hugh Morrissey and Peter Broderick who plays Shane Morrissey about the show.

What attracted you to the Birthright? 
Thomas: I’ve always been intrigued by family dramas.  Even though the events in the play are heightened, there’s something relatable about these characters and their relationships to each other. Family dynamics are complex but often go unnoticed because we’re experiencing them in real time. Birthright does an excellent job of examining the consequences of these relationships and the results are laid bare for all to see. 
Peter: As soon as I read the play, I knew that it was a special piece of theatre. The landscape is very familiar to many rural Irish people, such as myself - so I knew that the detail painted by TC Murray was absolutely spot on. I love how TC Murray wrote the family dynamic, the drama, and even some of the humour that we hear in the space. Overall, it was a very well rounded piece of theatre and I wanted to be involved from the very get go.

The story hasn’t been seen in London for 90 years, why do you think now was a good time to revive the piece?
Peter: The themes of the play, despite being written over 100 years ago, still stand true in our modern society. I think we can draw a lot of comparisons between now and then and shockingly see that not much has changed. It shows us that communication in relationships play arguably the biggest part in their failure. I think we can all resonate with that, regardless of when or where you have grown up.
Thomas: Always a good time to revive a good play. I’m  just surprised it hasn’t happened sooner!

How have you approached finding the characters? Did you work together in order to form the connection between the brothers? 
Peter: When you have such a brilliantly written play, along with a brilliant director like Scott, the characters didn't take too long to find themselves. Once we got up on our feet the dynamics were very, very clear! Tom and I did a dive into the history of Shane and Hugh's relationships and it helped us massively in how we respond to each other,in the given circumstances we find our characters in.
Thomas: We all worked really hard as a cast, with Scott, to deep dive into the lives of these characters. It was important to understand the dynamics between the whole family to get some context for the relationship between Hugh and Shane. We spoke a lot about how their relationships to individual parents impacted on their own relationship. Funny enough Irish families haven’t changed a whole lot in 120 years and I was able to relate to my own relationships, particularly with Maura to help build Hugh as a character. 

What keeps you inspired as artists?
Thomas: Watching theatre/films/tv. And watching great actors showcase their craft. 
Peter: witnessing electric theatre, which is everywhere in London! Also, working in rehearsal with Scott, and our amazing cast is so inspiring to me. I love watching these people work!

What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing the production? 
Peter: I hope our audience will enjoy the dynamic that we've created here, and leave the theatre with a lot to talk & think about.
Thomas: It’s a very thought provoking play. I love when I watch something that leaves me thinking and talking about it for hours after I leave the theatre. I hope when people leave the Finborough they’ll find themselves chatting about the relationships between these characters, how things escalated, and could all of this have been avoided…
Birthright runs at the Finborough Theatre in London from Tuesday 5th until Saturday 30th September 2023. Tickets are available from

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