When I was a library director, I used to take on new projects with a sense of adventure and excitement. Digitizing the backfiles of a local journal? Yes! Implementing a new online learning environment for the school? Yes! Setting up the first wireless network in the campus? Yes! Of course and why not!?
Did I know everything there was to know about all of these technical and complicated information projects? No. But taking up the challenge of making them happen gave me the opportunity to learn, to understand something new and maybe a bit scary, and to push forward into the future.
Does Gabriel Byrne have similar experiences when he takes on a new project? I get the sense that he does. Working with new colleagues and grappling with new material can lead to an enriching experience for both the makers of the art and the audience. Opinions can change, minds can be expanded, new appreciations can develop.
That’s one reason a creative person doesn’t retire. Why would they? There’s too much fun still to be had!
Enjoy these interview excerpts and click the links to read the entire articles. And join me in waiting to see Dance First sometime soon on a screen near you (perhaps one in your own home!). heart
I think the best way to begin is by watching Gabriel talk! heart
In what is one of our favourite interviews in some time, we spoke to the brilliant Gabriel Byrne on portraying Samuel Beckett in Dance First, which is released on November 3rd.
In this fascinating chat with the affable performer, we discuss his process of playing a character like Beckett, as he talks to us about his own personal relationship with the author, and whether it’s been altered as a result of making this film. He also talks about the unique approach to the biopic which we see here, and he talks about acting as a craft, and how, in some ways, it’s all rather embarrassing.
And now, I think you should read what Gabriel has to say about Beckett and how his impression of the playwright changed over time. This is a longish interview and quite good–it gives us a sense of what drew Gabriel to the making of the film and also a glimpse into how making the film affected him. There’s an embedded video in this article as well, so be sure to watch it!
“I didn’t like his plays,” he tells RadioTimes.com during an exclusive interview. “I thought that people who liked Beckett were pretentious – that they saw something that was unique to them. And I identified much more with emotionally accessible plays where I could say, ‘Oh, yeah, Chekhov I get, I totally understand. I get what that’s about.’
“But Beckett was like, there’s no emotion and there’s very little drama.”
Over the years, though, Byrne’s impression of the work gradually began to change, such that he could recognise that Beckett was writing in a way that nobody had ever written before, and dealing with subjects that nobody had ever dealt with before. In other words, he had revolutionised theatre.
“And then I began to see the humour and then I began to see what he was actually saying,” he adds. “And he began to talk to me, and, in fact – if it’s not too pretentious – he started to talk for me. I’ve never actually said this, but if somebody asked me the question, what do you think of life? I’d say: ‘Well, I agree with Beckett.'”
“When I was at university, when I was young, I went to see [Beckett’s plays] and I was just bored to death by those plays,” remarks Byrne (73).
“I couldn’t believe how people were standing up at the end. I was just like: ‘I don’t get it at all.’
“And I got older, and then I came to it… ‘God, he’s talking about the things that I think about most of the time, and he’s doing it in such an incredibly honest way that you can’t turn away from it’.
“There’s no gilding of the lily, there’s no softness… He’s saying to you: ‘Look, we’re alone in this life. And there’s no Godot, no Batman, no Superman, no messiah that’s gonna come along and make the world better. We’re alone. And we have to recognise and accept that fact, if we’re going to have any kind of contentment. We can’t live in an alternate reality.’”
In keeping with Beckett’s dramatic style, Dance First takes a surreal approach to the biopic genre. In the first few minutes, we watch Beckett declare that his winning of the Nobel Prize was a “catastrophe”, before scaling the wall of the theatre and meeting a version of himself, seemingly representing his conscience, prompting a discussion about to whom he should donate his generous prize money.
The vignette approach to storytelling in Dance First is an evocative way of exploring Beckett’s life, which was multifaceted to the end, including an austere mother, connections to Ulysses writer James Joyce, a near-fatal stabbing, time spent in the French Resistance against the Nazis, marriage, an affair and, of course, a successful writing career.
“Like most of us, he can be very contradictory at times. We’re all made up of contradictions, I think,” says Byrne.
Now is the time for everyone in the USA to gather and eat pumpkin pie. What a strange custom and yet! Thanksgiving has undergone many changes over the years, and why we celebrate is quite different from those original reasons for rejoicing. Turkeys are not in evidence as much and all discussion of how lovely “the Indians” were to the Pilgrims has ceased. Now, I think we just celebrate the fact that we are all here and there is food on the table and friends and family to enjoy it! Oh, and football. Not the soccer kind. When asked what I am thankful for this year, I am ready with my list to recite. I always end it with “… and Gabriel Byrne.”
So, in that spirit, here is Gabriel in a Fall Sweater background, smiling and thinking about the pumpkin pie he will scarf down when he gets back home to Maine. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate and Happy Autumn to the rest of you! And those of you in the Southern hemisphere? Happy days to you because I have no idea what season you are experiencing right now! heart