I live in Dublin, Ireland. Sometimes. Most times I live in my head, quite unaware of my surroundings – if you know what I mean… If you succeed in tracking Sean Walsh, please let me know, ok? I've been searching for him for years…
Re THE CIRCUS, my four-hander which has now happily morphed into a six-hander, 125 Valium Valley:
The late Bill Morrison, an accomplished playwright in his own right and – for a time – Drama producer, BBC Northern Ireland, read the script and enthused about it. So much so that when he settled in Liverpool to join Chris Bond, Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale in running the Liverpool Playhouse he was able to schedule THE CIRCUS for a staging in October, ’81.
I crossed the Pond at Bill’s invitation, met the cast (Kate Binchy and Angela Vale I already knew) and director, Janet Goddard – and sat in for the final rehearsals. ‘Given a preview of poster and programme – I still have a copy of the latter with Bill’s intro note:
“’Here surely is a play deserving of the widest possible audience,’ said the Irish Times in 1976. Yet the play and the author have not had the recognition which I think they deserve…
Perhaps such savage comedy was too uncomfortable for Irish audiences. I am sure that in time, Sean Walsh will be recognized as an important dramatist of contemporary Irish society…”
And I smiled wryly as the last line of a potted bio caught my eye:
“He lives in Dublin… and has been known to make his way home at night by railings…”
Opening night went as smoothly as my first (and last) trip on a Hovercraft! I awoke the following morning to read:
“She’s upstairs in the bathroom cum-vanity unit-en suite – pukin’…” Dick says of his wife, Nora… To be fair she has just found out that her daughter has had to get married – in a register office to not just a Protestant but an atheist. And the curtains are twitching across the road.
It’s taken five years for Sean Walsh’s play, The Circus, to cross the water for its British premier… Bill Morrison says it does for Irish society what Abigail’s party did for England.
Or, you could add, on one level at least, what Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf did for that other ex-colony.
Because here are the two comfortably set up couples tearing into each other and themselves over bottles of strong spirits in the early hours of the morning…
Compare Dick and Nora, Clem and Maureen with the stage image of Dubliners left us by Sean O’Casey and Brendan Behan. They’ve moved out of the tenements into the suburbs and,
prospering on the green foliage that sprouts from Brussels, reveal a snobbery that used to be suppressed by shared hardship.
Now the bars are built into the living rooms, instead of the people being built into the bars…
They pick and choose between the tenets of Roman Catholicism as faithful sons of the church always have, but find it increasingly hard to make any of them fit reality? Is it Limbo that was abolished or eating meat on Friday?
It’s a darlin’ piece of work… ”
– Robin Thornber. Arts Guardian. Oct 15, ’81.
As the lights came down on that opening performance, Willie Russell crossed to Bill Morrison: “I’m proud to be associated with a theatre that puts on such a play…”
The following morning Bill left a copy of The Guardian for me – open at the relevant page – before departing for work… with a note attached: “You won’t get better than this…”