PETER COLLEY Playwright-Screenwriter

A Drama with Music

Rep 21's new production - see cast pictures below!

"A beautifully written, daring, intimate and profound theatrical experience."

Theatre companies, to obtain a free perusal copy of this play, email the author at:

See the bottom of the page for rights and playscripts.

Premiere: Grand Theatre, London, Ontario

"Peter Colley's The Donnellys is a personal Canadian favourite."
Mike Ross - Times Square Chronicles

The National Arts Center Ottawa (left) and The Roxy at Owen Sound - 2013 (right)

The premiere production was performed at The Grand Theatre, London, Ontario 
and the National Arts Centre, Ottawa.  It was directed by Heinar Piller,
Set Design: Anton Dimitrov, Costumes: Olga Dimitrov, Music: Berthold Carriere


Second Production:  The National Arts Centre, Ottawa
"Canada's Home For The Performing Arts"






THE STORY:  The Donnellys is based on Canada's most infamous true story.  A story that has grown in the telling with each generation since the events that shook the little village of Lucan in 1880 and caused a sensation around the world.   Why did the god-fearing residents of a small pioneer town rise up one night and slaughter an entire family as they lay sleeping?   Why did a veil of silence descend over the town, so that even though forty sets of footprints were found at the scene, nobody was ever convicted of the murders?  And why has the code of silence lasted to this day?  The play sets out to answer these questions, going back into the blood-feuds of old Ireland and tracing the passions and hatreds that fueled this deadly tragedy.

Tom Celli and Pat Collins at the National Arts Centre

Wayne Burnett as "Tim Mulligan" at the National Arts Centre

The play was commissioned and dramaturged by Heinar Piller the Artistic Director of The Grand Theatre in London (Ontario, Canada), where it received its premiere.  The drama broke the theatre's 70-year-old box office records selling 99.69% of capacity in the historic 1100 seat former opera house - proving to be the most successful play in the theatre’s history.  Almost 20,000 tickets were sold and 20,000 were turned away after the run sold out, despite an extension, so the play was remounted the following season and then transferred to The National Arts Centre in Ottawa where Mr. Colley was one of the youngest playwrights ever produced at Canada's national theatre.  In the first two years it was seen by over 50,000 people.  Numerous productions across Canada followed.  It was published by MacMillans (Anthology) and Simon & Pierre (now The Dundurn Press).  It is required reading for certain schools and universities - a portion was filmed by TV Ontario for educational programming and also by Maclean Hunter Television.  It has also been performed in the United States.  In 2011 it received a major new production at Rep21 in North Bay and at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto, resulting in an updating of the text by the author, and new music.  In 2013 there was a hit production at The Roxy in Owen Sound, where the show sold out and was extended - the first time the Roxy has extended a regular season show in 40 years.  



“I found The Donnellys an outstanding and intense experience... an exciting and original work of theatre!  With this production The Grand Theatre has finally “arrived.”"
Rick Wellwood - CFPL TV

“The play’s portrait of a shameful past is both powerful and disturbing... a strong and unrelenting script... very moving... a dark display of evil... overwhelming emotions of fear, passion and hatred... left a lasting impact that should fill us with shame and dread.” 
David Barber - Kingston Standard

The Donnellys is a stunning box-office success!  Intelligent entertainment... nimble yet perceptive.  Rich in atmosphere and compelling in incident.  This is important theatre!”
Jamie Portman - Montreal Gazette

“Grandly soars... full-bodied, full of lurid verse and high excitement!  It is a proud contribution to local culture.”  
Herbert Whittaker - Toronto Globe & Mail

“One feels that comment on this production is almost superfluous after the rave reviews and sell-out crowds The Donnellys drew.  The production was for myself a moving experience... nothing short of superb.” 
East London News

“Peter Colley’s The Donnellys, which began a run at the National Arts Centre, is a stirring drama... fascinating as fictionalised history.”
Maureen Peterson - Ottawa Journal

The Donnellys brought to me a valuable, personal and literary interpretation of both life and history.” 
Mary Kowaltschuk - London Free Press

“I saw two performances (of the The Donnellys) and was deeply moved by the play... it was a hit!” 
Herman Voaden Editor: In Preface to “Look Both Ways”

 The Donnellys is the best piece of community-oriented theatre in Ontario.”
Gordon Sinclair - Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

"Murderous tale a popular stage hit... this play shows what hate can do to honest people." 
Owen Sound Sun-Times By Denis Langlois

Click on Review for larger version

“In The Donnellys, I wondered why Colley’s sweeping lyrics couldn’t be lifted and used as narrative poetry in the schools.  They’re utterly grand reading... the saga of the Donnellys could come to life the same way as The Highwayman has for schoolchildren.”  
Jeniva Berger - Scene Changes Magazine

"We closed our production of The Donnellys last night, thrilled to have been immersed in the world of your play for the last few months.  It is probably the most challenging work we’ve undertaken and it was met with an outstanding response from our audience.  Thank you for writing such an accessible, inspiring text.  My students grew immeasurably from their experiences during this project."
Vancouver Secondary School

Welland Tribune 2007: "Students embrace dark drama with great enthusiasm".

"We had a great success with The Donnellys and it provided a very memorable experience for all of us who were involved."  
Iraina Neufeld, Head of Arts, Welland Centennial Secondary - 2008









Photos taken by James Patterson.   © Copyright James Patterson.  Used with permission

Check out the Donnelly Museum







For playscripts or stage rights contact the author at the email address below or:

The Playwrights Guild of Canada
401 Richmond St. W., Suite 350  Toronto ON, M5V 3A8
Tel: (416) 703-0201 Fax: 416) 703-0059

The Playwrights Guild handles the amateur rights of this play in Canada.  For all other rights please contact the author at:


The above email address is a graphic so that SPAM email harvesting programs cannot see it.  You  must manually type in the email address!  Thanks! 

THEATRE COMPANIES: For free perusal copies of any of Peter's plays email a request to the above address.  Please include company name

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