Three Stories (2000)

Video Docu-drama Workshops

The project began with a series of workshops from which three short films were made (currently in post-production). In September, 2000 a general call for participants was made locally in the south east part of the county council district through posters and leaflets distributed in shops, supermarkets, community centres and libraries. Seventeen people attended the first session and age groups range from 16-49 years. Working with an actor – Jennifer O’Dea – the ten week workshop, which began in late September 2000, taught participants how to be comfortable performing around each other and develop scenarios through improvisation exercises.

Production planning, scheduling, locations, props/costume gathering, final casting and rehearsals took place during the later weeks of the workshop.

The workshop took place in Ballyroan Library, Rathfarnham. We are grateful to the library staff for their assistance during the workshop and shoot.

Workshop participants

  • Grainne Ahern
  • Naomi Cahill
  • Josephine Cunniffe
  • Martin Cunniffe
  • Tom Cunniffe
  • Ken Heslip
  • Mary Downey
  • Emily Foynes
  • Emma Granger
  • Audry Harte
  • Melissa Jameson
  • Fergus Keane
  • Dervila McGarry
  • Dianne O’Connor
  • Mary O’Shaughnessy
  • Annie Sparrow
  • Susan Stafford

Weeks 1-2

During the first two weeks the group were introduced to the project and each other. A typical class involved some warm-up exercises at the beginning along with group activities or games. Names games were important during these initial weeks so that the group could get to know each other better. In the second week we began some improvisation exercises, starting with word associations games and progressing a freeze-frame game where everyone had to act out an event that had happened during the previous week.

Weeks 3-5

In these weeks participants were asked to bring along a short story of local or family interest to work on during the session. These stories were represented as three still scenes with groups of approx. five participants. Below, in no particular order, are brief accounts of each story with the three stills noted after the title. At the end of week five when all the remaining participants had told and acted out the stories, three main themes were agreed upon by the group and the stories are ordered under these headings listed below

Dueling/Death >

conflict resolution

Myths > falsity

Corruption > protest


Morgue Pub

drinking; carrying coffin; drinking with corpses

The owners of Morgans pub in Templeogue were also the undertakers. Customers in the pub often were interrupted by a coffin being carried through the premises as the corpses were stored in a back room of the pub. Customers were often enjoying a drink only a few feet from the dead.


Hell Fire Club

climbing; card game; discovery

The Hell Fire Club was a notorious meeting place on the edge of Dublin Mountains where wealthy folks went to play cards. One evening a stranger arrived and joined the group, someone dropped a card on the ground and when looking under the table for it noticed that the stranger had hoofs instead of feet, apparently the Devil himself.


Trip to Jail

protest; arrest; jail visit

In the 60’s some farmers made a peaceful protest in 60’s poor prices. They were arrested and sent to Kilmainham Jail, Tom’s father was one of the farmers. During a visit he remembers the gate of slamming behind him and thought he too was locked up. The visit was supervised by prison guards which seemed unfair treatment for such a minor crime, the farmers were released after 3 weeks.

Mary O

Tar and Feathering

tar/feather; flee; hiding

During the War of Independence a British soldier was randomly attacked in Tallaght and tar and feathered. The men responsible fled the scene and went into hiding up the Dublin Mountains for 15 months.


Ugly Wretch

pointing; belittling girl; wedding

Fionn mac Cumhaill, celebrated hero warrior of Celtic literature had a spell put on him by an ugly woman so that he believed she was a beauty. She was often belittled for her ugliness. Despite this he was fooled by the spell and agreed to marry her.


Egg Fight

scorn, throwing; action stopped; protest

Two local boys and girls schools were involved in an egg fight. The resulting action by the school authorities meant that the annual Sport Day was cancelled. The students decided to go on strike, this attracted a lot of media attention including a national newspaper. The Sports Day was reinstated the year after.


Kilkee House Cat

fight; eating over body; cat under table

Following an argument between two men, one was killed. It is said that he still haunts the site where the murder took place and takes the form of a black cat. This place is currently occupied by a pub and restaurant.


Twins Fagan

stooped pair; loading up; all carrying loads over shoulders

The Fagan twin brothers from Knocklyn were notoriously mean; to stay warm in the winter they apparently bought one sack of coal and instead of burning it they would take turns carrying it around a field to keep warm.

Mary D

Speaker Connolly Pub

review of document; speech;drunken bunch

Speaker William Connelly was originally from Capel Street in Dublin City, he inherited some land in Tallaght and build a pub there.


Rathfarnham Castle Bride

suitors; duel; opening up wall

Two men who were competing over the hand of a woman for marriage decided to have a secret duel to decide the issue. They bricked up the woman behind a wall while the duel took place. Unfortunately they were both killed in the fight and the woman died eventually behind the wall. Years later her mummified body was discovered during renovations at the Castle.


Hell Fire Club

card players; see hoof; devil vanished

One evening a stranger arrived and joined a card playing group, someone dropped a card on the ground and when looking under the table for it noticed that the stranger had hoofs instead of feet, apparently the Devil. With that the Devil disappeared into a puff of smoke.


Kings Cowboy

building fences; whisper/bribe; celebrating

Sir John Black in the 17th century annexed a large piece of land that is now the Phoenix Park. There were protests but when the case went to court he bribed the magistrate thus getting to keep the land while also giving himself an annuity.


St Enda’s

slapped on hands; classroom; marching

P.H. Pearse founded the boarding school St Enda’s in Rathfarnham in an effort to educate boys in a more supportive and Irish environment. He eliminated corporeal punishment and classes were taught through Irish. During the 1916 Rising volunteers which included some students marched to the city from the school


Walls of Tallaght

walls protected cows; breaking walls; cows escaped

There used to be walls surrounding Tallaght, forming a fort. Livestock and people were safe behind these walls. Several raids took place and the structure was destroyed. This left Tallaght defenceless and destitute.


Death with an Evil Grin

sick person; passing on a note; dead with grin

The first Earl of Ross in the 18th century had lead a decadent life. On his death bed a priest sent him a letter telling him to reform his ways, instead he redirected the letter to the pious Lord Leinster. Ross died with an evil grin on his face having played one final trick.

Week 6

The three main themes that emerged during the previous weeks were worked on during this week. Participants split up into three small groups and discussed was to develop the themes further. The results of the discussion are listed below, again in no particular order.

Conflict Resolution



Room full of people fighting, fade to black, same room but with less people – as film proceeds there are less and less in the room – two are eventually left and the can’t remember what they are fighting over – last shot is of an empty room.

Situations where people misrepresent themselves or abuse their positions of power – sexual harassment in an office by executive and his secretary, making her do things she doesn’t want to keep her job.

Silent protest – not speaking or refusing to engage in a dialogue can be the strongest form of protest, whether dealing with an interrogator or even a teacher.

Four young people are fighting, as the scene progresses they become the older – switching the younger participants of the group for the older ones.

Priest and woman where the woman uses it to her advantage, the power relationship of the affair is reversed her as the man is in the vulnerable position.

Protest over a protest – domestic setting where the children replace the parents in an argument, serving them meals etc., if extended out into other aspects of life, school becomes an OAP day centre with dependency roles switched.

Various scenes of people cleaning themselves and their homes – the fight is against dirt not between individuals – neurotic cleaners or neat freaks – eventually you return to the dirt or dust from which you came – dirt never killed anyone.

Brother versus sister where one gets the other to give over concert tickets because the other skipped school.

Silent protest – in a crowd of people the most silent person can be the loudest in terms of protest, especially in a domestics scene with a few people, with one family member ignoring the fight.

Neighbours fighting over their hedges, a typical suburban scene with neighbours arguing over each others small gardens, one grows a tall hedge, the other a fence, the fight continues as one issue is resolved they find another thing to fight over – eventually they move into adjoining apartments in an effort to resolve the tension, but they just find something else to fight over.

Work situation, where power produces conflict, the boss versus the employee, one manoeuvring, manipulating over the weaker worker.

Protesters sometimes seem to just love the whole performance of protesting – love shouting, making noise, placards, almost rent-a-protester – when the issues fall away or are forgotten.

Arguments tend to use similar language – various settings show a group of four people arguing, although the people and locations change the words or sentences are the same – all repeating the same script.

A room with a group of people – they are all interacting silently and passing between them things that represent various kinds of corruption or blackmail, bags of coins, plastic baggies with powder, briefcase of cash, sod of earth – highlighting the exchange of commodities.

Protesting for the sake of it – protest scene of placards, posters and leaflets – instead all are blank, this set of protesters are replaced by a group with a diagonal line through their signage and then this group replaced by another with an opposite diagonal, forming an “X”.

Two people facing the camera not each other, having an argument and talking simultaneously – the cacophony continues with the two not making eye contact.

A person has a piece of paper stuck on their back with words like cheater, liar, unfaithful, thief – to get the sign removed they have to pay the injured party.

Silent protest – two people refusing to talk so send written notes to each other, their personal protests escalate with tape dividing the house apart, running down the centre of rooms, eventually leading to separate rooms being installed for the pair.

Difference between the way people look and act around each other can cause conflict – people of different heights, getting to close, invading personal space all result in intimidation.

Shadow of a person – the evil side of an individual, every time someone tries to do something their shadow undoes the work.

An argument is reversed – starting with shaking hands and progressing backward where an argument gains momentum although the words seem not to provoke or incite, the anger or intensity reversed as effect before cause.

Week 7

We decided on three scenarios to shoot based on last weeks ideas. They are listed below with locations and activities or action.




Scenario Ideas

Scenario Ideas

Scenario Ideas

battle against dirt

dust to dust

neurotic cleaning

short film about housework

domestic – social – personal –


people hiding real self

labelling people

group therapy session

label on shirt reveal truth overcompensating by lying

undefined protest

demo over the demo

same words used repeatedly

inaudible words from chant sound melodic, rhythmic grunts




domestic private spaces

close-up shots of activities

library seminar room

therapy room

domestic spaces

open neutral space – park, school yard, car park

interior – two sofas in a room with opposing factions




just the sound of the activity

no voiceover

each person tells a lie to camera

saying the opposite of what they are doing or what a badge say on their shirt

sound of the chanting and protest

possible narrators:

striker talking en route

voiceover reporter on scene individual interviews




wearing a smog mask on a bike

spraying front door mat with perfume

cleaning cooked food on plate

trimming foot corns, cleaning belly button

repeatedly polishing a floor

washing football boots with toothpick

whitening a pair of shoes

washing dishes that then go into a dishwasher

scrubbing pebbles in a driveway individually

cleaning wall dashing with toothbrush


wiping words in the dust

cleaning a toilet

knocking over a cremation urn

foot prints in the dust

perfectionist but is really messy and disorganised

alcoholic claims to be a teetotaller

bitch says she likes people

dealer is a concerned parent against drugs

bimbo having a blonde moment

mean but claims to be generous

unfaithful but claims fidelity

thief but never steals

smoker but moans about second hand smoke

vain but claims she is a mess

racist but loves foreigners

illiterate but carries a magazine


bathroom fight

walking with placards


group huddle


warming by a fire

blankets/deck chairs

dispute over tactics

laughing and enjoying



Week 8

This was rehersal time, with an extended workshop period we attempted to rehearse as best as possible for what we were going to be shooting in the following weeks.

As the pieces to camera or Lies were unscripted we did a run through with everyone once to get them thinking in character. Everyone then commented on what they thought of each others performance and what could be added or taken out.

The Dirt scenario was rehearsed though an excercise where participants were asked to do something normal like read a note to themselves to the group – practicing having to do a everyday activity in front of an audience and not over-act!

The Protest scene was tricky to rehearse but roles for everyone were assigned and we practiced some chants for the day. These were made into general non-descriptive chants as the protest has no actual issue or cause.

Week 9-10

The shoot took place over two weekends in December, 2000. Locations used were two of the workshop participants houses in Tallaght and Knocklyn, Ballyroan library and then onto Corkagh Park in Clondalkin, Dublin for the Protest shoot on a very cold December Sunday.


Hands cleaning : spectacles, nails and cuticles, cooked food, a door mat, pebbles, a floor, grout between tiles, a car wheel, football boots, a fire place, a computer keyboard, dusting and cleaning product bottles


Each participant told a lie to camera claiming they were not: dishonest, a gossip, obsessively neat, a racist, vain, a flirt, an alcoholic, a chocoholic, forgetful, a gambler, a dealer, a smoker, a thief, and a wife with adulterous husband.


The exhibition was held in three venues in Rathfarnham Village, Dublin 14 with video monitors placed in the places pictured below. Initially it was to be held in January but various issues delayed it until the spring of 2001.

RathFarnham Castle Café

RE/MAX Orchard Properties

Rathfarnham Garda Station

A web version of the project is no longer available as the javascript no longer works and the video clips no longer work but was available at

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