The Superlatives is a play about extremes.
Considering it’s based on the world’s most famous book of facts, it’s fitting that the play got its start from a fun fact:
The people who created the Guinness Book of World Records were identical twins with photographic memories. One of them was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army in 1975.
I was on a tour of the Guinness storehouse in Dublin in 2014 when I heard that fact and thought, there must be more to that story.
So I started researching the story behind the Guinness Book of World Records, and turning it into a play that would later become my undergraduate thesis.
But as I was writing the twins’ side of the story, I became curious about the other side as well. What had moved someone to murder one of the twins face-to-face outside his own home?
I dived into that period of history, the 1970s in England and Ireland, to figure out why my play felt one-sided.
I wrote most of the play in 2016. Trump was elected while I was immersed in the writing process, and I was curious about political extremes. But it was hard to find much information about Harry Duggan, the IRA member who killed Ross McWhirter. Until I noticed one particular book, The Road to Balcombe Street, had a lot of specific information about the night Ross McWhirter died.
So I called the author.
Without revealing his sources, the author of The Road to Balcombe Street, Dr. Steven Moysey, was able to answer pointed questions about the IRA’s active service unit that murdered Ross McWhirter.
I finally had the missing piece that I needed.
The result is The Superlatives, a two-act historical fiction play with the thesis: “Extremes beget extremes.”
Dr. Steven Moysey agreed to write a foreword, and when I graduated from university, the play was awarded the 2017 Paterno Fellows award for Best Thesis in the Humanities.
Why The Superlatives is an Ideal Play for Students
- The Superlatives has a large cast, 10-19 actors, making it great for a college or high school theater group.
- The play also allows a unique chance to learn about The Troubles, a period in history that many schools, especially American schools, don’t teach.
- The show offers fabulous acting opportunities, with scenes that span from hilarious to heart-wrenching, giving a chance for talented actors to rise to the occasion and shine.
- With this play, teachers can open conversations with students about political extremes and their effects. The story is poignantly relevant even today, and it includes practical lessons and words of warning that students may call upon in their personal lives.
The Superlatives is Completely Free
I’m offering The Superlatives to any theater or company that hopes to produce it free of charge. You can download The Superlatives below and give it a read.
I’m an unpublished writer hoping for exposure. I wrote and researched The Superlatives over the course of three years, finishing in 2018. Even after The Superlatives won an award for its research and writing, it has simply been sitting on my laptop since then. I want to see it come to life!
If you’d like to produce the Superlatives in any capacity, I only ask that you let me know first by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, so that maybe I can attend! Also please take pictures.😊
The Superlatives- a Play
Ross McWhirter is an upper-class British conservative, most well known for being one of the identical twins with photographic memories who created The Guinness Book of World Records.
Emma Duggan is a young Northern Irish Catholic revolutionary who becomes radicalized after a traumatic event in 1972 on Bloody Sunday.
The plays goes back and forth between the storylines, each side unconsciously mirroring the other.
They meet toward the end of Act II, when Emma kills Ross.
Author: Siobhan Brier
Type: Two act play
Genre: Historical fiction drama
Suitable for: Teenagers and above
10-19 actors, 9F 10M
PROFESSOR: Written as a man, but could be played by a man or a woman. Elderly, but with a lot of energy (speaks quickly). American.
EMMA DUGGAN: 19 in the beginning of the show, then ages four years between acts one and two. Irish Catholic.
ROSS MCWHIRTER: About 30 in the first act and about 50 in the second. Absolutely identical to his twin, Norris. British Protestant.
NORRIS MCWHIRTER: The older twin. British Protestant.
ROSEMARY GRICE: In her late teens or early 20s in the first act, then in her 40s or 50s in the second act. British Protestant.
HUGH DOHERTY: 22 in the beginning of the show, then ages four years. Irish Catholic.
The following two characters may be played by the same actress:
COLLEEN BUTLER: Emma’s best friend and the same age as her. Irish Catholic.
CAROLE ECKERT: In her 20s. Pretty and posh. British Protestant.
The following two characters may be played by the same actor:
JOSEPH O’CONNELL: 23 years old. Handsome. Irish Catholic.
MICHAEL O’DEVLIN: In his mid-20s. Colleen’s boyfriend and a leader in the Irish Republican movement. Irish Catholic.
The following five characters may be played by the same actor:
SIR HUGH BEAVER: 61-year-old man with posh clothes. British Protestant.
TOM HODGES: An old British man.
IAIN MCWHIRTER: Son of Rosemary and Ross. Teenager. Exactly like his father. British Protestant.
SIR WALLACE: British man in his 60s.
MR. MATTHEWS: An old British man.
The following four characters may be played by the same actress:
MRS. DUGGAN: A widow in her 40s. Irish Catholic.
MRS. WALLACE: British woman in her 50s.
JAMES MCWHIRTER: Same as Iain, but slightly younger. British Protestant.
MRS. MATTHEWS: An old British woman.
Ages of the Actors:
120 minutes plus intermission
Level of Difficulty:
Scene 1 County Wexford, Ireland. Summer, 1951.
Scene 2 Derry, Northern Ireland. Summer, 1971.
Scene 3 London, England. Summer, 1954.
Scene 4 Derry, Northern Ireland. Summer, 1971.
Scene 5 London, England. Summer, 1954.
Scene 6 Derry, Northern Ireland. Fall, 1971.
Scene 7 London, England. Fall, 1954.
Scene 8 Derry, Northern Ireland. Winter, 1971.
Scene 9 London, England. Winter, 1954.
Scene 10 Derry, Northern Ireland. Winter, 1971.
Scene 11 London, England. Summer, 1955.
Scene 12 Derry, Northern Ireland. Winter, 1972.
Scene 13 London, England. Winter, 1959.
Scene 14 Derry, Northern Ireland. Winter, 1972.
Scene 1 Belfast, Northern Ireland. Fall, 1974.
Scene 2 London, England. Spring, 1971.
Scene 3 Belfast, Northern Ireland. Fall, 1974.
Scene 4 London, England. Fall, 1971.
Scene 5 Belfast, Northern Ireland. Fall, 1974.
Scene 6 Derry, Northern Ireland. Fall, 1974.
Scene 7 London, England. Fall, 1974.
Scene 8 London, England. Winter, 1974.
Scene 9 London, England. Fall, 1975.
Scene 10 London, England. Fall, 1975.
Scene 11 London, England. Fall, 1975.
Download The Superlatives (for free) Below
Even if you have no interest in producing The Superlatives, please have a read and let me know what you think!