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…
A two-hander in one act by Sean Walsh.
Set in a grotty bedsitter in the London of the late 60’s, early 70’s, THE DREAMERS centres on two Irish immigrant labourers, Shay and Liam: the former a maturing tree, the latter a mere sapling… They have much in common, little in common… Both are dreamers of dreams: as the piece progresses we come to realise that their foremost dream – of making it, returning solvent to their homeland – will never become a reality…
A simple story, told simply. Yet for reasons that I cannot quite explain, this two-hander – whenever and wherever broadcast, televised, staged over the years – seems to strike a universal chord: the lonliness of exile… the frustrations and hopelessness of the immigrant worker at the lower end of the scale… the hankering after the homeland.
THE DREAMERS was first staged at lunchtime at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin’s South King Street in August, ’74, and ran for three weeks. Directed by Tom Hickey with Tom Jordan as Shay and Noel O Donavan as Liam. Later on it was produced at the Playhouse, TrinityCollege, with a young Gabriel Byrne – then still an amateur – playing Liam…
Radio versions followed: on RTE Radio One with Brendan Cauldwell as Shay and Jim Reid as Liam; and in a subsequent production Shay was played by Niall Toibin and Liam by Patrick Dawson; in an Irish version/translation, also on RTE One, Shay was played by the late Eamon Keane; BBC 4 broadcast it as a half-hour with Michael Duffy and a young Stephen Rea, directed by the late Michael Heffernon. (It was repeated on BBC 4 some time after the first txm.)
A 60’ television adaptation was screened on RTE One in the 80’s : directed by Paul Cusack with Patrick Laffan as Shay and Jimmy Bartley as Liam. It was subsequently re-screened on Channel 4.
It has also been broadcast – in translation – on several European networks.
Taste and Hear:
LIAM: (TAUNTING) Well, just as long as it doesn’t put you off goin’ to Mass of a Sunday.. ?
SHAY: I’ll go, I’ll go…
LIAM: Ha. You say that every week.
SHAY: You let it go a fortnight, let a month slip… and then it’s gone, all gone. Up every mornin’ at cock crow… Tired, tired out… You let it slip an’ it’s gone…
LIAM: You’re off again, romancin’ in your mind. You know as well as I do, Shay boy, there wasn’t much to let hold of in the first place. What! You down on wan knee, head splittin’ from the night before, not knowin’ half o’ what was goin’ on an’ not carin’ much about any of it, whether or which!..
SHAY: I say me prayers as best I –
LIAM: An’ more power to you, Shay… wherever you say them… back of a chapel or top of a bus… Himself still hears…
SHAY: No doubt… God, I feel out of it, even there I feel out of it.
SHAY: Aye. It’s all strange to me now, not a bit like I knew it an’ me growin’ up… There’s an English priest above in the local Church. ‘Talks with a spud in his mouth. Christ, I can hardly get a word any o’ them say. If it were in Latin atself it wouldn’t be so bad. But sure, no. Gone. All lost and gone.
LIAM: I keep tellin’ you, Shay. Change, it’s change all the time the world over. Times don’t stand still for any man, boy.
SHAY: Sure we always went to Mass, every wan of us, never missed a Sunday. You wouldn’t dream o’ not goin’ unless you were really sick or there was a sick animal… Crowded in the side door; smell o’ raincoats an’ wellingtons an’ coughin’, coughin’… rain drippin’ off the trees in the graveyard… An’ us at the back tryin’ to pick up something from the priest an’ him talkin’ away to the childer in the front row…
LIAM: Yeah, well, I’ve done with all that. A right farce, the lot of it. They can keep it!..
LIAM: Do you still hear from her?
SHAY: Two, three years was the last… I was never much good at puttin’ pen to paper. An’ I’ve changed me address once, twice since then . . . Ah! You end up searchin’ for her face on the surface of a pint o’ bitter…
LIAM: ’That why you do it?
LIAM: Well, it’s been every Friday, Shay, every Friday night since we teamed up. ‘Not tryin’ to hurt your feelin’s like, but –
SHAY: So what do you do? Come back to this dump an’ lie on the bed, stare at some bit o’ tit in the paper?..
LIAM: Is there . . . no way . . . out ?
SHAY: I dunno. I do not know… There’s lights in a pub, do ya see, an’ talk an’ darts an’ dominoes an’ hate – an’ it’s the only place I know where I can meet me own kind… Anyway, it’s a habit that grows on you – an’ to tell the God’s truth I don’t want to break it… Jesus, but it can be very lonely in this cardboard box . . .
LIAM: It’s no solution, Shay –
SHAY: Don’t I know that! God’s sake, no one knows it better than me!..
LIAM: An’ there’s always the next mornin’.
SHAY: Aye. Time an’ a half – double time, if you can get it. So you count your change an’ pull in your belt an’ hump off into the dark – while the rest o’ the world is still sleepin’.
SHAY: Bitter an’ bile an’ your hands like blocks of ice an’ a wind from the North East cuttin’ you in two.
LIAM: Jesus, you make me feel desperate, desperate! I don’t want… I don’t want to –
SHAY: (FINISHING THE SENTENCE) You don’t want to be in my boots when you get to my age… ’You think I was never your age, never had your dreams? ’God sake, I was goin’ to do the divil an’ all the day I walked up that gangplank at Rosslare. I was alive an’ alert, strong as a horse, ready to work meself to the bone for the goal I had in mind. Ah, but it gets you, wears you down in the end . . . Well, you say to yourself, sure it’s not livin’ at all, at all, if you can’t have a fag when you feel like it or a drink with the lads on pay night.
LIAM: Gluepot. Bloody gluepot. Bar flies. Feet nailed to the floor. Cru – cru – crucified.
SHAY: Just. You step in for a quick wan an’ then it’s the same again an’ then someone sends you over a round, an’ before you know where you are, you’re caught.
LIAM: Shay? Shay, it’s hard work over here. Oh, the money’s good but we bloodywell earn it. And then we go an’ –
SHAY: Piss it against a wall…
LIAM: Yes – sss…
SHAY: Sure I suppose every man that works with his hands is entitled to whet his thirst of a pay night. But then it’s Saturday night, an’ then Sunday. ’The start o’ the week you find yourself goin’ to work, mebbe walkin’ part o’ the way to save the fare.
LIAM: You really give a fella heart, no doubt. What the Hell’s got into you this night?. . .
SHAY: Thursday’s the worst. Twenty four penalisin’ hours. Aye, an’ the other lads on the job soon get to know your form: “Ever lend us ten bob, Chris. I’m skint. Give it back to you tomorrow” . . .
LIAM: I’d have more fun at a wake.
SHAY: God knows, it’s easy enough to get drunk on a few pints when you’re on the job from early mornin’, clawin’ away at it. An’ you’re shagged, anyway, from the work an’ the height an’ the cold air . . .
LIAM: I take it you’ll be wantin’ to draw up your will before you lie down?
SHAY: An’ it’s easier still to get into a row with someone that seems to be makin’ a better way through life than yourself. An’ then it’s all hot words an’ quick tempers an’ a brain crazed from bitter an’ the lack o’ sleep. . .
LIAM: Now here’s a book an’ a half. Look at all them pages. Be God, huh?
SHAY: ‘Likely as not you start off up North . . . in Manchester or Brom or Preston . . . after a while you push South . . . Well, you hear, like, that the weather’s not as harsh . . . plenty o’work with a bit fallin’ off the back of a lorry now an’ again when you’re in the know . . . An’ you believe all you hear about the great number of Irish in London: “That’s where you’ll meet your own kind, lad; sure it’s home from home, really . . .” You don’t know, like, that there’s twelve million people an mebbe six hundred square miles to the same London . . .’can be the loneliest place on God’s earth . . .
LIAM: It’d take me the rest o’ me life to get through a book the size o’ this.
SHAY: Oh, y’know, like, that it’s a humdingin’ city. Y’know from the papers about shows an’ night life an’ the like – but you haven’t the money or the nerve to taste it, likely as not . . . Our sort, drawin’ our wages, it means a straight line from the digs to the job an’ back again . . . with a detour, mebbe, to the pub if there’s a jingle at all in the pocket . . . then a stagger home along a dead street, droppin’ chips into a belly o’ beer . . .
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