Tomorrow afternoon I am going to the matinee showing of ‘Juno and the Paycock’ by Sean O’Casey in the Gate Theatre. It will be my first time to see a play in the Gate.
The play itself is brilliant. I have never seen it myself. But having played the character of Joxer Daly in a production of the show in Amsterdam last year, it’s fair to say that I know the story upside down and inside out. And it is wonderful. It’s a tale of a tenement dwelling Dublin family living in the inner city during the Irish Civil War. Good fortune falls on the family. Or does it?
By my reckoning I’ve been somewhat involved in the theatre scene for about eight years now.
A few years before that a Scottish friend of mine, and I made a failed attempt to attend the Christmas party of the amateur theatre group I eventually joined in Amsterdam. It was being held on a Friday after work in a bar called Café Dante on Spuistraat. As we finished work at 5, we repaired to a local hostelry for some liquid refreshment before attending the party. Now neither of us knew anyone in the group, and by the time we eventually staggered into Café Dante, we realised that it was probably wiser not to find them, for fear of the impression we would make.
Had I known then, what I know now, I would have realised that this would have been perfectly acceptable behaviour.
I joined the group a few years later and haven’t looked back since.
My reasons for joining a theatre group were multi-faceted. I wanted a hobby. I was interested in the idea of performing. And I was interested in meeting new people. – in particular men of a theatrical nature – strong of voice, heart of emotion. And limp of wrist. Where better to find such people than in a theatre group. It’s not for nothing that the word ‘theatrical’ has been used as a euphemism for ‘sodomite’ (this word is a wonderful word in my view – I know it’s regarded as an insult, I’ve always thought of this insult with affection though)
And meet them I did – along with all sorts of other weird and wonderful people. I think it would be fair to say that the theatre world appeals to people of a slightly eccentric, creative and dramatic nature. Which is unsurprising of course.
My theatrical virginity was broken when I played a male gigolo in a short play. Since that inaugural role I have played many different characters – a dead body (where I lay on the stage, immobile for the entire play, except during an unfortunate sneezing fit); a mummy, a wizard, a serial killer, a cuckolded husband, a cross-dressing alien; an alcoholic priest, a murderous husband, Joxer Daly, and most recently ‘myself’ – when I had to recast the male role in an autobiographical play that I wrote after returning to Ireland, and thanks to a combination of laziness and egotism I decided that I was the best man for the job. I have never played a traditionally ‘good guy’. Not that I am complaining about this. Freaks and geeks are possibly more interesting to play.
Joxer Daly is the favourite role I’ve played – due in no small part to how brilliant the writing in the play is. When the writing is that good, half the work is already done for you. Now it wasn’t the final role I played in Amsterdam – that dubious honour goes to the character of Riff Raff which I played for a 1-off rehearsed reading of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. ‘Juno and the Paycock’ was the final fully rehearsed run I did.
Appropriate enough, seeing as I was returning to the motherland shortly thereafter.
So it will be interesting to watch this classic play, when I can actually recite the lines along with the characters.
Apparently the Gate is a beautiful old theatre. Located at the of O’Connell Street It was created by Micheal MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards – Ireland’s first openly and flamboyantly theatrical couple – almost a hundred years ago, at a time when such shenanigans were a criminal offence.
Looking forward to tomorrow very much indeed.