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To Stay or Leave

by Daithí Kearney

Set in Ireland of the 1920s and 1930s, To Stay or Leave is a bilingual musical drama that examines many of the social issues of rural Ireland during this period. Like today, the community is challenged by emigration and unemployment. Ireland was a new nation dealing with the aftermath of Independence, the Civil War and the development of new political parties. It was a country where the clergy's influence was strong yet people remained highly superstitious and stories of the fairies were popular. When the country's language and music traditions were in decline, the music of her emigrants echoed home. It is an Ireland of increasing change but people are reminded of the importance of their intangible cultural heritage including their music, song and dance. 

First produced in January 2006, To Stay or Leave utilises the model of folk theatre pioneered by Siamsa Tíre in the 1960s to present a narrative using Irish traditional music, song and dance, with new songs and tunes composed by Daithí. The production also makes reference to the music of influential Sligo fiddle player Michael Coleman, whose recordings were sent back from America and were of significant influence on Irish traditional music in Ireland. During the 2015 production, the same fiddle on which Coleman recorded some of this music, was performed on by the cast.


To Stay or Leave was first produced at the Granary Theatre, University College Cork on 9 January 2006. The first run was extended following a sold-out run and the production was staged again in October and November of that year. It featured as part of the Annual Patrick Kavanagh Weekend & Poetry Awards on Friday 25 September 2015 and 21 October in the Mac Anna Theatre, Dundalk Institute of Technology. 

As part of ongoing Creative Arts Practice Research, To Stay or Leave was the subject of a symposium presentation by Daithí for a Sunding the Feminists event:

Kearney, Daithí. ‘To Stay or Leave: Revisiting Creative Outputs Through a Feminist Lens’, Sounding the Feminists Symposium: Women in Popular & Traditional Music in Ireland, 23 November 2018. 

Original Cast: Daithí Kearney, David Hickey, Edwina Burke, Grace Kearney, Jack Talty, Louise Keating, Mairéad Hickey, Margaret McCarthy, Melanie Jones, Micheál Ó Suilleabháin, Muireann Ní Dhonnabháin and Naomi Morrissey.

October 2006 Cast: Daithí Kearney, Edwina Burke, Grace Kearney, Mairéad Hickey, Muireann Ní Dhonnabháin, Caitlín Nic Gabhann, Oona O'Grady, Sara Dunne, Laura Cahalane, Neasa Ní Chonghaile, Edward Looney, Luke Deaton, Shane Cunniffe and James Duggan. 

September 2015 Cast: Adèle Commins, Daithí Kearney, Katie Lennon, Shane Keeley, Finola Kirby, Kerrianne McArdle, Kim Poole, Áine Scott, Jessica Hui Sze Lee, Sárán Mulligan and Gillian Power.

October 2015 Cast: Adèle Commins, Daithí Kearney, Katie Lennon, Shane Keeley, Finola Kirby, Kerrianne McArdle, Kim Poole, Áine Scott, Jessica Hui Sze Lee, Joanne Cusack, Martha Guiney and Gillian Power.


2006 Finale
The future
Shane's Politics
Seeking success
Shane Bass
Róisín Dubh
Learning from the fairies
Nothing Changes
My jewel
Orchestra 1
Rinc is ceoil
Martha flute
Martha flute jig
Joanne accordion
Katie sleeping
Jessica set
Jessica fiddle
House chat
Family at home
Fanacht sa bhaile
Family song
Foreign shore
Fuair mé an nuachtáin
Daddy daughter
Dancing on the half door
Daddy can't you see
Cast Bow
2006 Kitchen Scene
A family
An Clár Bog Déil
Boat for Ellis Island
Mairéad Hickey
2006 Forest Fairies
Cast Photo
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