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The Lonsdale Project

Due to Riverbank Arts Centre’s requirement to close temporarily to comply with Covid-19 containment measures, we are unable to present the World Premiere of our co-production with Super Paua – The Lonsdale Project.  We are working with the company to remount the production in the near future – but in the meantime, let us tell you about Kathleen Lonsdale, Super Paua and the show.

The Lonsdale Project is a new theatre show about the life and work of Kathleen Lonsdale (1903-1971) – chemist, crystallographer, anti-war campaigner, writer, mother, and former inmate of Holloway Prison.  

Images of Charlotte House courtesy of Kildare Local Studies – thanks to James Durney!

From Kildare County Council Local Studies: Kathleen was born on 28 January 1903 to Harry and Jessie Yardley. She was the youngest of ten children, four girls and six boys. Her family were quite poor and four of her five brothers died in infancy. She once wrote: ‘Perhaps, for my sake, it was as well that there was no testimony against a high birth rate in those days.’
English-born Harry Yardley married Jessie Cameron in 1889. He joined the British army through the City of London Volunteers and fought in the South African war, finally becoming regimental sergeant major. There is a family story that Harry received special commendation on his discharge for improvements he had introduced in firing techniques. He returned from the wars to Ireland to be postmaster in charge of a staff of six at Newbridge post office, then situated in Charlotte House.

From Super Paua’s Exhibition Notes: When she was five years old, Kathleen moved to England. In order to study subjects she was passionate about- maths and science- Lonsdale had to move from a girls’ school to a boys’ school as they didn’t offer these subjects in the girls’ school.

Lonsdale graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1922 and an MSc in Physics in 1924. In 1924 she joined the crystallography research team with William Henry Bragg, beginning her journey into crystallographic discoveries! In 1929, she published her important research on the benzene ring.

Kathleen married Thomas Jackson Lonsdale in 1927. They had three children- Jane, Nancy and Stephen.

Images from a preview school performance at Riverbank Arts Centre on 12th March, 2020. There were 300+ school children booked to see performances. In the circumstances, only one class – St Patrick’s Newbridge – could join us. By amazing coincidence, this was the school that Kathleen Lonsdale attended in 1907!

Despite being a pioneering Irish scientist and activist, Kathleen Lonsdale’s name and legacy are curiously unknown by the general public.  Super Paua aims to change that with The Lonsdale Project –  By harnessing an interdisciplinary team of artists, educators and scientists, they have created an engaging piece of theatre about X-ray diffraction, Benzene, pacifism, crystals, and sticking to your guns.

Lonsdale’s story (and the story of hexamethylbenzane) is brought to vivid life in an accessible theatre piece for teenagers aged 11+. Portraying the hugeness and beauty of microscopic worlds theatrically, Super Paua hope to move the field of X-ray Crystallography from the incomprehensible to the humorous, the visual, the wonderful, and bring Kathleen’s story and legacy to a new generation of scientists and citizens.

“Comedic, character-driven, socially focused, and scientifically accurate, we worked with some amazing Irish scientists such as Dr Claire Murray and Dr Brian Murray on how to communicate Lonsdale’s discoveries and research within an artwork, rather than as an educational exercise.” See article by Sian Ní Mhuirí on creating The Lonsdale Project

The Lonsdale Project is a ground-breaking play that challenges our relationship with science, with belief, and with the ‘Great Thinkers’ who have shaped our world.

Written and Directed by Sian Ní Mhuirí
Designed by Áine O’Hara
Exhibition & Engagement Content by Mark Ball
Cast: Hazel Clifford, Graeme Coughlan and Aoife Spratt.
Produced by Mitzi D’Alton, Super Paua, and Riverbank Arts Centre

With support from Science Foundation Ireland, Arts Council of Ireland, Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, The Royal Institution, SciFest, and TU Dublin. 

For more information about Super Paua see their website

In addition to the performance, Super Paua curated a pop-up interactive exhibition which expands on  the world of Kathleen Lonsdale and introduces modern scientists who are carrying on her work.


Behind the scenes at the exhibition installation!