Based on the book by Marita Conlon-McKenna
Produced by Cahoots NI

From Belfast, Northern Ireland

About the Company

Cahoots NI’s UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE follows the journey of three brave siblings as they fight for survival during the Potato Famine in Ireland, 1845, when 1 million of the country's population died of hunger... 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.


Based on the internationally acclaimed book by award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna, this musical story of family, history and hope is told like never before in a new play by Charles Way, directed by Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney, with original music by Garth McConaghie.


This old Irish story resonates still today with the global struggle of forced migration due to famine, war, climate change, etc… Cahoots NI’s UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE explores immigration through the eyes of our world’s most vulnerable: the children. The siblings’ journey towards a new tomorrow illuminates the critical importance of a safe harbor for young people, whether in other countries or in the open arms of caring adults.




This dramatization is based on the book UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE © text 1990 Marita Conlon-McKenna, published by The O’Brien Press, Dublin. 

Cahoots NI is also touring SECRETS OF SPACE in 2021-2022 and offering an interactive digital experience UNIVERSITY OF WONDER & IMAGINATION for virtual engagements in 2020-2021.

Best for: Grades 2nd+ (Ages 7 years+)

Audience Size: Medium & Large Venues

Highlights Trailer of UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE

Audience Reaction

Please contact us to watch an archival full length recording.

Curriculum Connections

  • Fine Arts: Performance, Design, Music, Adapting a Book for the Stage

  • Language Arts: Storytelling, Imagination, Critical Thinking

  • Science: Food and Agriculture, Famine

  • History & Social Studies: The Irish Famine of 1845, Forced Migration, Immigration to North America

  • Emotional/Social Development: Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness, Problem Solving, Empathy for Others


Outreach and Workshops

Extended Talk-Back
Join cast members from Cahoots NI’s Under the Hawthorn Tree for an in-depth exploration of the story, the development of the production from page to stage and a closer look at the connections between this old Irish tale and our new modern world


"Relaxed" or "Sensory Friendly" Performances

This performance may also available as a “sensory friendly” or “relaxed” performance if arranged with the company in advance and with specific direction as to what adjustments are necessary for your venue.  Please contact us if this is something you'd like to explore.

Minimum Technical Requirements

  • Load In Time: 6 hours

  • Crew Needs:  5 crew members for load in/out (2 x Lighting, 2 x stage crew, 1 x Audio); 1 venue technician on call during show. Crew roles may be combined, depending on venue regulations.

  • Min. Stage Size:  36 w x 33 ft deep x 18ft ht. This show can be adapted to fit tighter spaces and a lower height (12 ft minimum) if discussed and approved in advance.

  • Load Out Time: 3 hours


Artistic Team

Director: Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney

Writer: Charles Way

Composer: Garth McConaghie

Choreographer: Carlos Pons Guerra

Designer: Sabine Dargent

Lighting Designer: James McFetridge

There are 7 performers and 3 technical crew in the touring company.


Critical Acclaim

“Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney has created a show whose message will be understood and should be heard right across Ireland … and beyond..” -Alan in Belfast


“Although magical in terms of theatricality and staging rather than this company’s signature brand of magic (illusions or tricks), Paul Bosco McEneaney’s direction strikes the right balance between story-telling and history-teaching about such a dark and serious topic.” -Belfast Times Review


​“I am very confident that it will be successful in its attempt to spark curiosity and conversation in generations both new and old.”  -The Gown

“It’s a long time since I shed a tear at the theatre, but Cahoots NI’s powerful production about three children during the famine is so moving. The set, the storytelling, the cast - it’s perfect.”  - Audience Member


“Brilliant and emotionally engaging.” - Audience Member

Company Background


Past Tours: Penguins, Shh! We Have a PlanEgg , Danny Carmo's Mathematical Mysteries, Nivelli's War, and Lights, Camera, Math!


Cahoots NI is at the forefront of Northern Irish theatre and is the leading professional theatre company producing work for children.  Since beginning operations in November 2001, Cahoots NI has produced original, boldly innovative work for children, some staged in conventional theatre venues and some in purpose-designed sites or specific locations, including schools and healthcare settings. Its work concentrates on combining the visual potential of theatre with the age-old popularity of magic and illusion. 

For more information, please visit the company’s website.

Gallery of Past Productions

ph: 512-477-1859 | email: sk@holdenarts.org | P.O. Box 49036 | Austin, TX 78765