Observe the Sons at the Somme

Observe the Sons at the Somme

Iconic Frank McGuinness play performed on the Somme battlefield

On 1 July 1916, the 36th (Ulster) Division took part in one of the bloodiest battles in human history, The Battle of the Somme.

One hundred years on, we brought Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme by Frank McGuinness for a special outdoor performance on the Somme battlefield.

Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme is told from the viewpoint of an old man, the only surviving soldier of eight comrades. The play reaches a climax at the start of The Battle of the Somme in which the Ulster Division suffered notably heavy casualties.

On Wednesday 29th of June there was a poignant outdoor performance at The Ulster Memorial Tower in Thiepval. The Ulster Memorial Tower was the first official memorial to be erected on the Western Front and was dedicated on 19th November 1921. It is located opposite Thiepval Wood from where the 36th (Ulster) Division made its historic charge on the 1st July 1916.

On Thursday 30 June there was a full performance at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens, the capital of the Somme department and the site of heavy fighting during World War 1.

We were proud to present this iconic play as an artistic contribution to the official commemorations to mark the largest battle of World War 1.


Observe the Sons of Ulster at the Somme

The performances at The Somme were generously supported by the French and Irish Governments.

In the News

The cry rises up and echoes across the hills of Picardy: “Ulster! Ulster! Ulster! . . . ”

Lara Marlowe in The Irish Times – 1 July 2016

About the Production

Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme is a coproduction between the Abbey Theatre, Headlong, Citizens Theatre and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.

Acknowledged as a modern masterpiece, this significant revival started a major tour in May in Glasgow. It will visit venues in Liverpool, Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Coleraine and Donegal before arriving at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, where the play had its world premiere in 1985.

Cast: Ryan Donaldson, Donal Gallery, Jonny Holden, Andy Kellegher, Paul Kennedy, Marcus Lamb, Chris McCurry, Sean McGinley, Iarla McGowan

Writer – Frank McGuinness
Director – Jeremy Herrin
Set Designer – Ciaran Bagnall
Composer – Stephen Warbeck
Lighting Designer – Paul Keogan
Sound Designer – Emma Laxton
Costume Designer – Niamh Lunny
Assistant Director – Bryony Shanahan


Jeremy Herrin and his brilliant cast give powerful expression to the exquisitely crafted script. ★★★★★ – The Telegraph

heroic in every way. ★★★★ – Herald Scotland

an epic drama ★★★★ – The Scotsman

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