On Saturday 28th April, we celebrated Fishamble's 30th Year in Belvedere House surrounded by many familiar faces, and some new ones too! We began the day with our very first workshop for A PLAY FOR IRELAND, meeting playwrights from our 30 chosen projects together for the first time. We then enjoyed a celebratory afternoon tea party with food and drink kindly provided by Tesco's Finest, to launch their sponsorship of A PLAY FOR IRELAND from 2018-2019. We were graced with a beautiful speech by Laureate for Irish Fiction and playwright Sebastian Barry, and messages from many of the wonderful people who we have had the pleasure of working with over 30 years.
Photographs by Leon Farrell, Photocall Ireland
"Little bit of speechifying for Fishamble at 30 years old" by Sebastian Barry
"Little bit of speechifying for Fishamble at 30 years old
Belovéd Fishamble! Wholly singular theatre company, so bright, so true. My friend Jim and his stellar officers. You give them a mere play and they stretch every sinew and bust every gut to outplay the devil and give it the very best life, the very best illuminated moment in the theatre. Imperfections will be gently but surely clipped away, Jim with his devious smile and his courtesy that cannot be withstood, or would be withstood on pain of -- outcome unknown.
My grandfather Papa Barry's back-garden wall divided his modest house from the monastery behind him in Donnybrook. Monks in camouflage brown hovered and muttered along the paths. But more importantly, the old stone wall, high and thick, had many a mortar-less gap, where imperial spiders lived, and draped their doors with their webs. These webs my grandfather would with utmost delicacy touch with a twig, and sure enough out would creep those time-blackened monsters, thinking in their laughable innocence that they had trapped a fly. It was only my grandfather there with his concentration and his joy, and me with my thumping heart.
This is Jim enticing a play out of you. He taps your web and out you creep and are so surprised to see him there, that almost without noticing you write a few pages. Then you retreat again to your dark lair, somewhat shaken and humbled. Then the web is Jim-tapped again, and oh my heavens, out you pop again, all hope and hunger, ah, but it is just that bloody Jim again. I will have to write another few pages to make him go away. Then you discard the metaphor altogether and come out as a human being, because Jim has started something that can end well or ill, but is unstoppable now.
True, he had to wait ten years for a second play from me, but was there ever a word of reproach? Not a one. Was there ever an episode of wheedling, whinging, hand-wringing, sue-threatening wailing and gnashing of teeth with mention made in maddened tones of wasted advances and personal insult? Not a murmur. Just all the usual devastating courtesy, kindness, respect, understanding. Fatal for the writer! What cunning and godlike plotting there is in that!
Gentleman Jim, whom we all love.
What is the theatre and how ancient is it? Who are actors and are they not something beyond human? Can we not hear the whispers of gods and catch the superhuman movement of myth in their performances? Like Liffeys and Corribs gone underground. A matter far far older than this culpable, straining, half-improving, half-disintegrating animal called homo sapiens sapiens, surely.
Who are theatre people in general anyway, who labour gladly all their lives to try to give audiences not just a night out, but veritable reasons to live. Reasons to be grateful for life itself. Theatre companies. Mobilised. On a warlike footing without war. All a strange matter really beyond words.
All the plays of Fishamble stretching back like the old lights of stars into a galaxy three decades wide.
Consider for a moment all the effort, all the damn phonecalls, the nervy auditions, the mad risks, the relentless acts of faith required, the cups of dubious coffee, the tea gone cold in a thousand emergencies in the rehearsal room, the panic, the broken hearts, the affrighted souls -- and then the unexpected nights where the very souls of the actors, the director, the designer, the composer, are freed, manumitted into free space, easy space, happy space, dancing space, where every disappointment is suddenly redeemed. When the writer looks on the actors with a grateful love, when the director shakes the writer's hand with solemn delight, when suddenly, the whole world is righted on its keel, and we are well-nigh delirious to be shipmates and soulmates on a blessed ship on a conquered sea.
And those other black, bleak nights when absolutely nothing is redeemed, but which forge the resolve to triumph next time, to do better next time. The two poles of theatre, between which all true theatre companies must be eternally ready and content to sail.
Dear Jim, and Noble officers of Fishamble, how blessed I am to have worked with you, how blessed all the writers. And you have rich decades left to cry havoc, to run amok anew -- gently, courteously, courageously, unstoppably.
Birthday Wishes from our friends