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🍷🍷🍷🍷 - 4 out of 5 (non alcoholic) glasses.
Gabriel Byrne is an international superstar but was born to a poor working-class family just outside Dublin. Watching him perform in a comfortable, up-market West End Theatre in London, I was hugely relieved he was there. As a working-class artist myself, it’s very important that these stories are told, particularly when the arts, and theatre, in particular, seem to be heading back to levels of privilege not seen since the John Gielgud 1920s.
Gabriel is a diminutive figure (although that may be because obs, with West End prices, I had to buy a cheap ticket at the back of the auditorium!) But he is a mesmerising storyteller, conjuring up tales of his boyhood youth outside Dublin. And refreshingly, for international Hollywood superstars, it’s surprisingly lacking in showbiz anecdotes. The main use of the celebrity namedrop is to talk about Richard Burton, and how his use – or should that be abuse – of alcohol informed Gabriel Byrne himself and perhaps led to his own alcoholism.
Many of his stories resonated with me and obviously did with the audience too. The funny ones… His Mom is in the cafe of a posh department store, putting on a posh voice. (My Mom at Rackhams, Birmingham!) His Dad watches him on TV and says “You’re on the TV… and yet here too! (My Dad in my first film appearance!) And the sadder stories… his abuse as a teenager by a Priest (Mine was a Scout leader) and the terrible tragedy of his sister. (Which fortunately I have not had an experience of, although a young friend of mine ended his life at 19… which I wrote about in my play, P.A.L.S.)
But there is also talk of how he became involved in The Theatre and we hilariously get to know members of his am-dram company in Ireland. And having just come from the land of the small-scale, 5 minutes-to-set-up-a-show landscape of the Edinburgh Fringe, I was slightly disappointed, if relieved, that the beautiful and evocative soundscape on the odd occasion drowned out his words. But what words they are! Taken from his self-penned memoir, Bohemians can take comfort that a man from a poor and often broken background can rise to take the creative cream present in this story of his Ghosts.
It’s finished in London now, but keep Walking, Gabe!
In : British Theatre