Updated December 29
The Better Show has a brief interview with Mr. Byrne about the play:
Lauren talks with Gabriel Byrne about directing a very profound and provocative play James X, based on a true story about the systematic abuse of children by institutions in Ireland. He also talks about his role choices, including In Treatment.
I appreciate the way he always expands the vision of this play by Gerard Mannix Flynn to include questions such as “What is the moral responsibility of the state to protect, not just its citizens, but its children?” Good art allows us to extrapolate from the singular to the plural, from the individual experience to the experience of everyone. I know all who were able to attend this remarkable play realize just how lucky they are!
Lauren is pretty taken with Mr. Byrne “You are like an intense man,” she says. “You think so?” he responds.
Oh yeah, we do.
Here is a transcript of the interview:
Lauren: Tonight I’m going to talk about something serious. I just saw the most amazing performance of a play called James X, directed by Gabriel Byrne. It’s about the systematic abuse of children in Ireland, both by the state and the Church. So we’re going to talk about so many people that were affected by this. It’s a pretty amazing story so stay with me.
Lauren: First of all, I wonder why you decided to direct this particular theater production?
Gabriel: Well, I think it’s a powerful and really profound statement about, not just events in Ireland over the last sixty years in terms of the collusion between state and church in the criminal abuse of children. But we didn’t understand when we came here to do this play that it would have such a topicality for American audiences. Well, I think that America has a tremendous amount to learn from what we have gone through. Apart from the fact that it’s about the criminal abuse of children, it also asks really profound questions that have a far wider resonance. For example, what is the moral responsibility of the state to protect, not just its citizens, but its children? What is the moral responsibility of the Church to do the same?
Lauren: He was abused by all these different agencies. You would think at least one would figure something out or one would care. It seems like nobody cared. They just swept everything under the rug.
Gabriel: Once you go into the system, as he says in the very last line of the play: “There is no love there.” There is no care. Institutions like those institutions didn’t care. Love was absent. And so, the point that he makes continuously throughout the play is that the same people just went from one institution to another and nobody cared and nobody acted. And by our silence, by our not knowing, we are also, to a certain extent, guilty by collusion in our silence. And one of the moments in the play is when the nuns tell him to be quiet. Silence. Silence breeds shame. And silence is the enemy. We need to speak up. We need to be truthful. We need to hold these people to account. Because what happened in the Irish Church was criminal.
Lauren: Did you know about this before you met James?
Gabriel: Oh yeah.
Lauren: You did? Did you have any experience? Did any of your friends or relatives?
Gabriel: I think that what surprises me constantly is the amount of people who have a story like this in their lives or that they know happened to a family member or to a friend. It’s much more endemic than we realize. And, as I said, the secrecy, the silence breeds a kind of a rotten core. You know, In Treatment was also a very profound and provocative series. I like to think that in most of the work that I do, I try to keep that kind of focus. Is this something that people will respond to?
Lauren: Well, you’re deep. You always take these deep roles, directing this. You’re like an intense man.
Gabriel: You think so?
Lauren: I think so. It’s amazing. I love your work and this is an amazing performance. Thank you for directing this.
Gabriel: Thank you.
Updated December 15
Here is the audio from the Leonard Lopate Show today.
Playwright/performer Gerard Mannix Flynn talks about the U.S. premiere of “James X.” An Irish government tribunal of inquiry into institutions responsible for cruel and inhumane treatment of children is in session. In the foyer, James X, one of those children, now a man, anxiously prepares to offer the testimony which he hopes will unshackle him from the past. “James X” is playing at 45 Bleecker Street.
The other big news now is over in another posting! After the performance on Saturday, December 17, you have an opportunity to meet Gabriel Byrne IF you hop over to CharityBuzz and enter your bid. Proceeds benefit Culture Project in New York, the group that helped make James X possible and who provided this picture!
Here are more pictures and a quote:
A Message from Gabriel Byrne & Liam Neeson“We are very proud to be presenting James X, a story of hope and survival, at Culture Project. It details the appalling collusion of state and church over decades in the abuse of defenceless children. As a piece of theatre, it is a powerful, visceral, and a unique testament; it speaks for all those whose voices went unheard for so long.”- Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson
Updated December 13
The big news is two-fold: critical reception to the play, while a bit mixed, is very positive when it is positive and kind of whiny and slightly petty when it is not. Well, that is my opinion, anyway. Review excerpts are just down this page a bit, but I only included the positive ones. There is nothing in my job description that demands I be objective all of the time…
Secondly, on Sunday, December 11, a forum was sponsored by Culture Project, SNAP, and the Center for Constitutional Rights which included representatives from these groups, the author and actor of the play, and its director.
This was a very powerful and moving experience–to hear these personal stories and to know that justice is being sought was simultaneously quite heart-breaking and remarkably uplifting. Kudos to all of the participants and a special nod to our Mr. Byrne for the masterful way he makes proceedings like this immensely personal and comfortable one moment and intensely political and polemical the next.
The forum was webcast and the archive is available below and also here (in case anything goes haywire with the embedded video):
A wonderful quote by Mannix Flynn from The Washington Post:
The author and Byrne met at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin when they were 20. “We are both committed to works concerning society, not just entertaining it,” says Mannix Flynn, who also runs his own company, Farcry Productions. “We’ve traveled different roads, but both of our skills and experience impact on this piece. Byrne is like the aircraft controller, bringing it in to land.”
Some reviews of the play:
James X, blazing indictment of child abuse
Gerard Mannix Flynn’s blazing indictment of the nationwide, decades-long abuse of institutionalized schoolchildren in Ireland, titled “James X,” is remarkable and should not be missed.
Flynn’s masterful performance of his work is being presented at 45 Bleecker Street in a very limited run. In it, he lays bare the soul of a middle-aged adult, James O’Neill, who spent the bulk of his childhood being abused by every state-sponsored, often Roman Catholic-run institution to which he was sent, initially at age 6 for not attending school. From there, uncaring judges repeatedly sent him to increasingly harsh, punitive institutions without caring what happened to him.
The shocking true story, dramatized by Flynn, is produced by Gabriel Byrne (who also directed), Liam Neeson and Culture Project. It has the tragically familiar ring of current U.S. headlines about trusted school authorities charged with sexually abusing boys in their care for decades. The willful blindness of Irish officials and society at large, unwilling to confront the church that rules their lives, is even more appalling.
By the time James quietly delivers what he calls “the real story,” which is even worse than what he’s already shared, Flynn has completely mesmerized the audience with his genuine personification of a much-mistreated victim who courageously faces the nightmare he lived. This deeply enthralling drama is only performing through Dec. 18.
Gerard Mannix Flynn is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. Indeed, he hasn’t intended to take it any more for some time, and a large part of his blistering discontent is expressed in the darkly poetic James X, a commanding and demanding monologue being presented by the Culture Project at 45 Bleecker Street.
Directed with equal ferocity by Gabriel Byrne, James X is fictional autobiography, and that unquestionably accounts for its power. Though the speaker isn’t meant to be Flynn, he’s based his protagonist’s outcry on his own experiences when, at 11, he was sent for 18 months to St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Letterfrack. The institution is part of an Irish correctional system for children where, it’s now publicly acknowledged, abuse was commonplace and summarily overlooked.
And here is a great, if brief, interview from Joanna Molloy at the New York Daily News with both artists who are making this play a reality:
The guy handing out flyers on the sidewalk in front of the 45 Bleecker Theater Monday looked an awful lot like Gabriel Byrne.
And when the women in a passing tour group realized it was indeed the mesmerizing actor, they surrounded him, and then rushed in and bought 10 tickets to “James X,” the one-man show about child abuse written and performed by Gerard Mannix Flynn. Byrne will direct his old friend in the play’s short run, opening Friday.
“I met Mannix years ago at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin with Liam” — that’s Liam Neeson, who is co-producing “James X” — Byrne recalled. “It was a theater very much like this: controversial and edgy.”
Read the rest and stop wishing you were one of those women who grabbed up tickets!
Updated December 6
OffBroadwayWorld has 2 pages of preview information for the play.
Gerard Mannix Flynn’s James X is a searing indictment of neglect; both of the individual and of the institutions whose responsibility is to protect and inspire its citizens. Directed by Gabriel Byrne, James X begins performances tonight, Tuesday December 6 at 7:30pm and opens on Friday, December 9th at 45 Bleecker Street. Produced by Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson and Culture Project, James X, a Farcry Production, features Gerard Mannix Flynn, who also starred in the production when it premiered in Dublin.
Accompanying the performance on display in the theatre’s lobby is IMPACT, an exhibition of Gerard Mannix Flynn’s work related to child abuse in Ireland’s institutions. Flynn’s moving exhibit takes viewers through James X’s journey starting from age 6 to present day. James X and this exhibit are each a part of Imagine Ireland, Culture Ireland’s year long initiative of Irish art in the United States.
Examiner.com has a new quote from the producers:
“We are very proud to be presenting James X, a story of hope and survival, at Culture Project. It details the appalling collusion of state and church over decades in the abuse of defenceless children. As a piece of theatre, it is a powerful, visceral, and a unique testament; it speaks for all those whose voices went unheard for so long.”- Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson.
And you can read more news about the play at Irish Central.
Updated December 5
Culture Project is tweeting that they are at the theatre at 45 Bleecker and Gabriel Byrne is in the house to discuss the Impact exhibition (see below for more on that).
And New York Irish Arts is spreading the word about the incredible array of Irish theater happening in New York City in December, including John Hurt in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, Cillian Murphy in Enda Walsh’s Misterman, (check out the New York Times for a sterling review of this production) and Gerard Mannix Flynn in his own play, James X, directed by Gabriel Byrne!
As soon as James X opens and is reviewed, those reviews will be right here.
What a time to be in New York City!
Updated December 2
Here is the New York Times Theatre Listings for December 2-8:
‘James X’ (previews start on Tuesday; opens on Dec. 9) Produced by Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson and Culture Project and directed by Mr. Byrne, this solo piece written and performed by Gerard Mannix Flynn tackles individual and institutional neglect through the secret history of the title character. Abused as a child, the grown man now waits to liberate himself from the past by offering his testimony to an Irish government tribunal. Part of the Imagine Ireland season promoting Irish arts in America. 45 Bleecker, near Lafayette Street, East Village, (866) 811-4111, cultureproject.org.
Updated November 30
Farcry Productions will be presenting a portfolio of its work in New York in association with Imagine Ireland programme. http://www.imagineireland.ie/
This is the first time that Farcry Productions has presented work in New York.
The work includes 14 performances of James X and a number of public talks around the issues that the play raises. There will also be a visual art exhibition work ‘Impact’ that will coincide with the run of the play at 45 Beeker Street.
James X will be directed by Gabriel Byrne and produced by Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson and Farcry Productions in association with Culture Project, Bleeker Street and supported by Culture Ireland.
This work is written and performed by Mannix Flynn.
Post-show talk on Sunday 11th December with reception. Also there will be a talk with CCR (Centre for Constitutional Rights) on Tuesday 13th December, venue to be confirmed. http://ccrjustice.org/
The play starts December 6. Opening night is December 9 and the play runs through December 18.
More about the plans for New York City, including several PDFs that you can download.
And here is an excerpt about Gerard Mannix Flynn:
Gerard Mannix Flynn – Founder and Director, Farcry Productions
Born in Dublin in 1957, Gerard Mannix Flynn is a playwright, performer and author whose work has dealt with such issues as institutional abuse, imprisonment and injustice. In 1977 The Liberty Suit , co-written with Peter Sheridan, was premiered at the Dublin Theatre Festival with Gerard Mannix Flynn as the protagonist in the play, set in a juvenile prison. In 1983 his novel Nothing To Say was published by Ward River Press and was translated into German. It tells the story of a boy sent “to be corrected” by the Christian Brothers. On the strength of this book, the Association of British & Irish Publishers selected Gerard Mannix Flynn as one of thirteen great Irish authors.
Updated November 29
Imagine Ireland: a year of Irish arts in America is in its final stages here in the United States and their newsletter highlights some of the last events scheduled: John Hurt on stage in Washington DC, then moving to BAM, in Samuel Beckett’s play Krapp’s Last Tape; the US premiere of Enda Walsh’s Misterman starring Cillian Murphy, opening at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn on December 4; and James X, written by and starring Mannix Flynn in his play about growing up in the worst place imaginable, directed by Gabriel Byrne. The run for James X begins December 6.
Seeing James X, was suggested as a ‘necessity of life’ by Fintan O’Toole of The Irish Times when it premiered in Dublin in 2009. Written and performed by Gerard Mannix Flynn, and also a US premiere, James X is directed by Gabriel Byrne and produced by Liam Neeson, Culture Project and Farcry Productions, and opens on December 9th in New York’s 45 Bleecker. Gerard Mannix Flynn, a New Independent Dublin City Councillor, is a well-known contemporary commentator, visual artist and playwright. His experience in Irish institutions, including eighteen months in St Joseph’s Industrial School from the age of 11, has informed much of his work including James X. Click here for further details.
Updated November 22
Culture Project informs us that tickets are now on sale for this production. There has been a lot of coverage about this play already. Here are some links.
Herald.ie quotes Councillor Flynn:
James X is opening at a particularly poignant time but Cllr Flynn believes that New York audiences are ripe for receiving it.
“The play has appeared in a number of guises in the past, but this is the first time it is being brought to New York,” he told the Herald.
“I believe it is now the correct time. This work predates what was contained in recent reports.
“The story of James X is not that different to the stories of those revealed in the Murphy, Ryan and Cloyne Reports.”
He said that the Irish actors were eager to come on board at a very early stage.
“This is a global issue and we need to be able to interrogate and absorb what has happened,” he added.
BroadwayWorld.com provides new information:
“I cannot recount a time when a critic decided that seeing a play was ‘a necessity of life’” said Culture Project‘s Allan Buchman, but that is exactly what Finton O’Toole suggested in the Irish Times regarding James X…
James X plays Monday through Saturday at 7:30pm, with matinees on Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 2pm. at 45 Bleecker Street. General admission tickets are $40. a limited number of student rush tickets will be available for $15 with valid student ID.
Irish Central: Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson to team up in sex abuse play [Note from Stella: gosh, that article title could have used some work!]
Updated November 17
Fintan O’Tooles’ reviews of an earlier production of the play are available at the Farcry Productions website. He puts the work in perspective in a really useful way, so be sure to check these out.
What’s so important about James X and about the installation, Statemeant, that Flynn did at Letterfrack in 2005, is the letting go. It takes the idea of shame, and the paradox that it is those who are abused who feel it more than those who abuse them. And it enacts the passing on of that shame from the victim to the State, to the citizens, to us.
In order for that letting go to be possible for those who have suffered, however, there has to be someone to receive it, and that someone has to be the State itself. This is not about wallowing in victimhood. It is not about engaging in self-indulgent displays of sorrow and sympathy, when we all weep and go home happy. Flynn’s work has been a deeply serious, minutely calculated and immensely dignified way of allowing those who have suffered not to be ashamed any more because the shame has been accepted into our collective consciousness.
Literature told us about the industrial schools long before any inquiry did. Writers sniffed this evil on the air, while church and State did their best to bury it. And it is to art that we must look for the rituals through which a deep psychic wound can be first cauterised and then, perhaps, healed. If it has any imagination left, the Government should ask Mannix Flynn to devise a work, not for himself, but for all of us.
Gerard Mannix Flynn,
playwright and New Independent Dublin City Councillor
According to the ArtsBeat blog at the New York Times:
A critically acclaimed one-man play about institutional abuse of children that created waves in Ireland when it was first produced in 2003 will be coming to New York. “James X,” written and performed by Gerard Mannix Flynn, will begin performances on Dec. 6 and open on Dec. 9 at 45 Bleecker Theater.
The play presents the story of a man waiting to present testimony to a tribunal investigating the sexual and physical abuse of children. It will be directed by Gabriel Byrne, the actor, and produced by Mr. Byrne, the actor Liam Neeson and Culture Project, a New York-based performance organization whose work focuses on human rights issues.
Mannix Flynn is very active on Twitter and he notes all kinds of things going on in Dublin; you can follow him @mannixflynn.
Read more about Culture Project’s production of James X. Tickets go on sale soon.
Be sure to read the rest of the ArtBeats posting and join me in wondering if there is anything Gabriel Byrne cannot do?