Casting | Under the Hawthorn Tree

Cahoots NI Under the Hawthorn Tree


Director: Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney
Writer: Charles Way (based on the book by Marita Conlon-McKenna, published by The O’Brien Press, Dublin)
Composer: Garth McConaghie
Auditions: Tuesday 20th February. Belfast 
Rehearsals + Production (Belfast) : 27th August—7th October 2018




Based on the internationally acclaimed book by award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna, published by The O’Brien Press, Under the Hawthorn Tree follows the journey of three brave siblings as they fight for survival during the Potato Famine in Ireland, 1845.

When their father goes to find work and their mother leaves to find him, Eily, Michael and Peggy, starving and faced with the workhouse, embark on a treacherous journey to find the great aunts they have heard of only in stories. 

This story of family, history and hope is told like never before in a new play by Charles Way, Directed by Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney. The story will be reimagined to contain elements of an upbeat traditional music session with a heartfelt original score from Garth McConaghie.

Character Breakdown

All performers must have a strong singing voice. The ability to play musical instruments is encouraged but not compulsory. Please note: children will not be considered for these roles.

Eily – Adult Female Performer, playing age : child to teens

Eily is the eldest and carries the weight of looking after her siblings and this task defines her. She has the ability to hold emotions in- and thus can appear hard on the surface-but underneath is wellspring of feeling which eventually comes free. She suffers from self doubt which is dramatised but usually overcomes it by being ‘practical’. When it comes to pure survival it is Eily who discovers her ‘animal’ nature-in a way the younger ones do not.

Michael – Adult Male Performer, playing age : child to teens

Michael slightly resents having to play second fiddle to his older sister. He is fun loving and imaginative- and likes playing the fool to get the centre of attention and to make his sisters laugh. He feels himself to be invincible at the start of the story and sadly is brought to a state of ‘adult’ understanding that he is not, all too soon in life. He would make a good friend- and prides loyalty. He also has the ability to think abstractly and it is he who wonders about the nature of ‘God’ during the famine.

Peggy – Adult Female Performer, playing age : child to teens

Peggy is the true ‘innocent’ of the piece and can be annoying to the others because she doesn’t fully comprehend the situation they are in. Without her to save however the other two might well give up the journey. There is an optimism about Peggy- and an ability to be ‘in the moment’ that contrasts well with her siblings who tend to ‘worry’. She is not however-too ‘Sweet’ and is able to stand up for herself. She accepts without question Eily’s role as ‘little mother’.

The other characters in the play double like so. These are the main roles but there are a variety of voices, small parts etc and all three are storytellers/musicians who can sing.

Mother/ Mary Kate/ Aunty Lena. Storyteller/Musician – Female performer, playing age: 30s+

The Mother is somewhere between 30 and 40 years old but the famine would make her feel much older. The other two roles are old women- though in truth probably under 60. The mother’s role is defined by her grief for the loss of her husband and youngest child. She is mentally fragile- but full of love and fear.

Mary Kate-is a survivor- almost feral. An old woman who helps the children with homemade medicines. She feels as if she is part of the earth itself. Tough as old boots but a warm heart.

Dan Collins / Joe [Musician/ Storyteller] – Male performer, playing age : late teens-20s

Dan Collins is in his late twenties-strong and capable and a friend of the family. A family man himself-he has a religious sense of doing right by others. He is even handed and calm-but resolute. A countryman.

Joe-is a teenage boy who seems older-a flamboyant character-who gives you a feeling he will survive the famine-no matter what.

Jer Simmons. [Musician Storyteller, Starving man/ Soldier, Old man.] – Male performer, playing age : 30s+

Jer Simmons is the landlord’s man sent to evict the children and send them to the workhouse. He has developed a hard almost cruel person to be able to make it possible for him to throw out his own people. Secret


[email protected]

CAHOOTS NI , 109 – 113 ROYAL AVENUE , BELFAST, BT1 1FF Tel: 028 90 434349


This dramatisation of UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE is based on the book UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE © text 1990 Marita Conlon-McKenna, cover illustration © PJ Lynch, and published by THE O’BRIEN PRESS, DUBLIN.


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