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…
Irish Times. 11/03/1986
The late Howard Kinlay looks back to an unusual play heard recently on RTE One:
Emma (in “Far Side of the Moon”) has been married 20 years.
Her husband stays out late most nights, drinking with the boys or chasing a bird, she presumes.
And she sits at home, “me and the four walls,” smoking too much, drinking too much, fretting, frustrated, drugged and despairing.
Just another sad case, really, another victim of love.
In her fractured state – “I hate being on my own”; “Please leave me alone” – she simply can’t stop waiting for the self-made man who hasn’t left her, only left her behind.
Nothing interrupts her isolation – a phone call proves to be a wrong number.
A symbol of her futility, she recalls the miscarriage she suffered once, when there was love in her life.
All of this we learn through a soliloquy, an unrelenting verbal spiral into despair, self-pity and hopelessness that is sustained for something like 20 minutes.
All right, I found myself saying, all right, we’ve got the message, things are bad, relentlessly bad, but the play doesn’t have to be so unrelentingly relentless just to make the point, does it?
Yet there is something that holds the listener’s fascination, two things really: Sean Walsh’s writing, which uses words and images like a machine gun uses bullets, and Colette Proctor’s acting.
Throughout that long opening soliloquy, she didn’t falter once.
As the emotions swung from blue to black and back, while she cried, castigated, crowed and caterwauled, Proctor’s sustained portrayal was a fascinating piece of radio acting.
But it didn’t end with that 20-minute reverie. It went on and on, for about an hour.
Emma is not so hopeless, after all; she has met and fallen in love with someone. She recalls how their love blossomed, we hear scraps of their conversation on a day out by the sea; inevitably, given the subject, there is talk of the moon.
But the moon isn’t simply a romantic backdrop. There is a running motif, first hinted in the sound effects, later explicit in Emma’s monologue of rocket launches. The earlier miscarriage was an aborted space flight.
Now, of the love she feels, Emma concludes: “Who am I to say yea or nay to the surge within me?” And she likens that surge to the pull of the moon on the sea.
Walsh’s writing technique communicates clearly and makes for compelling listening.
And by choosing a lesbian lover for Emma I think that Walsh was trying to face up to her essential flaw; in her words: “I find it well-nigh impossible to forgive – me.”
So Emma does not turn to a relationship which will replace that one she once had with her husband.
Rather, although no longer imprisoned within that relationship, she is, nevertheless, imprisoned within her own conditioning, her own inability to forgive herself.
So, while she now finds that she is successfully taking off, it is for the dark side of the moon that she is headed. She is, in her own imagery, casting herself out into freedom – but also into darkness.
I found this a richly-illuminating image. Illuminating about the way we are.
Obviously, this was a somewhat risque play for RTE to broadcast, given some attitudes to homosexual love.
But I think it was valuable that it was broadcast and I think it is a valuable play, for though nominally set in England, it is an accurate account of some psychological attitudes which are crucial in the behaviour of a fair number of Irish women.
As a radio play, too, I think it worked well. This was due, in some measure, to the writing technique employed, and also to the very careful direction by the playwright.
Above all, though, it was due to the stunning performance by Colette Proctor. Hers was the only voice heard – she played both Lisa and Emma – and I was simply lost in admiration for her technique and interpretation. It was an outstanding performance, one that deserves to become a classic in Irish radio.
(A perfpormance that was given due recognition at the Jacobs Awards, December, ’86. Well done, Colette. – S W)