“Home for me is a sense of where I came from. This play is a literal coming home for me.”
–Gabriel Byrne, talking about the new play he has written based on his memoir, Walking With Ghosts, in an interview from December 2021
Landmark Productions and Lovano, producers
Written and performed by Gabriel Byrne
Directed by Lonny Price
At the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, January 27 – February 6, 2022
In January 2022, Gabriel Byrne brought his one-man play, Walking With Ghosts, based on his recently published memoir, to the Gaiety Theatre in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland. It was a resounding success, filling the theater with enthusiastic and engaged attendees who were thrilled to be back at a live performance and happy to laugh, cry, and rejoice in Gabriel’s artistry and his memories. You can go home again, it seems, if only for awhile. –Stella
World premiere of this adaptation of Gabriel Byrne’s best-selling memoir of the same name, directed by Emmy award-winning director Lonny Price. Moving between sensual recollection of childhood in a now almost vanished Ireland and a commentary on stardom in Hollywood and on Broadway, Byrne returns to his home town to reflect on a life’s journey. –Sara Keating, from The Irish Times “Irish Theatre in 2022”.
Theater poster outside and cover of the program
Opening Night Photography for Landmark Productions by Irish photographer Ste Murray
Performance stills by Ros Kavanagh, Dublin-based photographer of architecture, performance and visual art.
Mr. Kavanagh received The Irish Times Special Tribute Award in 2022 “for using his artistic skill to create an invaluable visual record of the many artists and productions that make up the history of modern Irish theatre.”
response from theater-goers
Twitter lit up after the Opening Night of Walking With Ghosts in Dublin. Here are some examples, from fans, attendees, and colleagues:
hand prints at the Gaiety Theatre
Photos of the event provided by Barry Cronin
Gaiety Theatre Press Release
February 6, 2022
Ahead of his final performance this evening of the sold-out smash hit production Walking with Ghosts, we were honoured to take a cast of Gabriel Byrne’s handprints, to be added to those already immortalised on the Gaiety Plaza outside the theatre on South King Street.
Caroline Downey, owner of the Gaiety Theatre said, “Over its 150 years, the Gaiety Theatre has played host to world-class artists and performers and each performance is embedded forever in the fabric of this incredibly beautiful building. It feels important – now more than ever – to celebrate these people, who contribute so much to the culture of our society. We are incredibly fortunate that Gabriel Byrne has been an ambassador for the Arts in Ireland all over the world throughout his career. His handprints join those of a former co-star Niall Toibin, when he last performed on an Irish stage at the Gaiety 44 years ago in a production of Borstal Boy. We are extremely proud to immortalise his handprints in bronze as a symbol of the influence of his work on stage, screen and literature.”
While the run of the show ends today Landmark Productions and Lovano have announced that Walking with Ghosts will be available to watch on demand anywhere in the world from 26 February – 4 March 2022.
streaming version of Walking With Ghosts announced to Gabriel’s fans
video from the streamed play
These three clips from the streamed version of the play were created to celebrate Gabriel’s birthday in 2022.
recording the play
Marty in the Morning
The Tommy Tiernan Show
Tanya Sweeney/Irish Independent
January 22, 2022
[This interview is behind a paywall]
As he returns to the Irish stage for the first time in more than four decades, the actor talks about revisiting the past, the ridiculousness of Hollywood and why he’s not slowing down any time soon
You can take the man out of Walkinstown — geographically, at least. Gabriel Byrne has long left the Dublin suburb he grew up in behind, but one afternoon in recent years, he found himself back at the front door of his family home. A young couple, unknown to him, was now living in the house, and the moment left him marvelling both at how familiar the house seemed, but how he was now a complete stranger to it.
Byrne has been thinking a lot about the past lately, perhaps with good reason. In 2020, he released his memoir, Walking With Ghosts, which became an evocative retelling of his formative years in Dublin, as well as an exploration of his parents’ interiorities, and an attempt to map the co-ordinates from his upbringing to the present day. It’s a lyrical and muscular read that’s brimful of emotional truth and mordant humour.
“I think we revisit the past all the time,” he observes. “I think people often say that when you write something, it’s about the past and confronting demons, or you’re making peace with things… I didn’t find any of that. It wasn’t about writing it so I could come to terms with anything. And I wasn’t so much interested in anything to do with nostalgia or sentimentality.”
We’re talking today because Byrne is in rehearsal at the Gaiety Theatre for his theatrical piece, Walking With Ghosts, adapted from his memoir. Though he has appeared over the years on stages on Broadway and in London (his portrayal of James Tyrone in a 2016 Broadway production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night saw him nominated for a Tony award), it’ll be the first time that Byrne will appear on an Irish stage since a 1978 production of Borstal Boy. . .
Reviewing the memoir, critics have made mention of Byrne’s masterful and assured prose, but as Byrne notes, there has always been some sort of writer within him to some degree. Before he chose acting as his profession, he had briefly considered journalism. Byrne had already released a well-received memoir in 1994, Pictures In My Head, detailing his transition from the home-grown theatre scene to a life in the movies.
“I’d scribble things here and then, and sometimes a newspaper would ask me to do something,” he says. “I’d been asked to do [another] book a couple of times, but I didn’t want to do one of those dreadful tell-alls… and I could have done a book like that, because I know where the bodies are buried, so to speak. What I was interested in was trying to look at the world I’d grown up in and left, to see if it had influence, you know, [on] who I became. You know, the way life is a series of decisions that you make, and eventually, you become the sum of those decisions.”
Certainly, there are a number of parallel universes in which Byrne is an entirely different person to the actor best known for his roles in The Usual Suspects, Miller’s Crossing and, closer to home, Into The West. His is a life that has held many potential different fates. . .
Photoshoot by renowned Irish photographer Barry Cronin
behind the scenes
Gabriel Byrne signs copies of his book at Hodges Figgis Bookstore, Dublin, January 31, 2022
Aoife Moriarty/ Buzz.ie
February 2, 2022
Last night saw the great and the good of Dublin turn out for the world premiere of the new show at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre, more than 40 years since the actor last stood on an Irish stage.
It’s a wonder just to see Byrne sitting there, regaling a live audience with entertaining and poetic fragments of a life that started right here, in Dublin.
Early on, there is a sense of total assurance in him as a performer, as well as a certain awe that hangs over this homecoming.
It’s the knowledge that he’s one of us, and now he’s made it back to tell the tale in a full circle moment.
“That was pure shite,” his friend once told him about an early theatre production he appeared in. He knows we don’t mince our words. The Irish will always cut you down to size if you start getting notions about yourself.
You might be surprised too, at just how witty and self-aware Byrne is, and how easily he jumps back into the Dublin vernacular and cadence he was raised in as “a chisler”.
From an elderly neighbour tutting “I never trust a blue sky meself” to a priest declaring the English to be “jealous of our culture”, this is as much a meditation on what it means to be Irish as anything else.
Max McGuinness/Financial Times
February 2, 2022
Gabriel Byrne is captivating in one-man show Walking with Ghosts
The actor returns to the Dublin stage with stories from his life and his hometown
Gabriel Byrne has spent much of his life away from Dublin. But, echoing James Joyce, that absence has only reinforced the veteran actor’s fixation with his hometown. In this one-man show, adapted from his 2020 memoir, Byrne returns to the Dublin stage for the first time in four decades and takes us on an episodic stroll around the scruffy, eccentric city of his youth. . .
After the interval, Walking with Ghosts acquires a picaresque rhythm as Byrne returns to Dublin as a teenage “failed priest” and fails again at a motley succession of jobs . . . Skipping over his brief tilt at middle-class conformity as a schoolteacher, he offers a high-spirited account of his early years in amateur dramatics under the tutelage of a bawdy insurance agent. There is also a winning, vaudevillian riff about his first one-line part on Irish TV. Redemption arrives in the shape of a TV writer in a pub who casts Byrne as “a kind of Irish Heathcliff guy” on The Riordans, a rural soap opera that remains a cultural touchstone in Ireland. The smouldering energy Byrne brought to the role of lusty farm labourer Pat Barry helped to propel him towards stardom and an array of similarly Heathcliffian performances. . .
Byrne’s self-effacing charisma remains captivating throughout this two-and-a-half-hour show (with an interval). The genial septuagenarian also displays impressive range as he pivots between moments of searing pathos and a playful comic register.
Fiona Charleton/The Sunday Times (UK)
Thursday February 03 2022
Walking With Ghosts theatre review — nowhere to hide from the ghosts of his past
This is one of Ireland’s finest performers at his very best
News flash: the actor Gabriel Byrne is the real deal. His self-penned one-man show, Walking with Ghosts, confirms this: that the Walkinstown native, who started off as that dirty-looking article Pat Barry in The Riordans and went on to conquer Hollywood, is a master of his craft.
Directed by Lonny Price, Byrne has nowhere to hide during this 2 hr 30 min long Landmark/Lovano production based on his 2020 memoir. His is the only voice we hear: but with the presence that made him RTE’s first heartthrob, he draws us in, populating the stage with ghosts from his past.
The production opens with Byrne in wistful mode. “In memory and in my dreams,” he intones, “it’s always summer on this hill.” All very poetic, but the strength of this play lies in Byrne’s gift of observation, and it takes off when he ditches his earnest persona and morphs into the characters of his youth with unerring accents and gestures, and with authentic Dublin banter.
Dark issues, such as being sexually abused as a young seminarian, are recounted without self-pity, with Byrne exuding a sense of emotional detachment that only dissipates when he movingly recounts the mental breakdown of his late sister, Marian.
. . . Byrne’s understated delivery becomes more relaxed and, at times, feels like ad-libbing. He’s probably not. He’s just one of our finest performers doing what he does best. A remarkably entertaining evening of Dublin wit. . .
February 5, 2022
Gabriel Byrne throws away his masks to bring memoir to theatrical life
Gabriel Byrne commands the stage in this tour-de-force performance which is part self-exposé and part a history of growing up in working-class 1950s Dublin. Produced by Landmark Productions and Lovano, Byrne’s 2020 literary memoir here comes to vivid theatrical life.
The show starts in a low key. Byrne talks gently to the audience, tells them stories about his childhood, his schooling, his father’s job in the Guinness brewery. The shocking death of a school pal in a drowning accident. He visits the cinema with his grandmother. There is a trip to Clerys to buy his first Holy Communion outfit, with his mother pretending to be “la di da” at tea in the Shelbourne. There is a certain sentimental tinge to proceedings. But by the end of Act 1, a brief stint in a junior seminary where he is sexually abused by a priest blows the sepia tint right off.
Act 2 gears up considerably. We get a vigorous account of Byrne’s early years as an actor, learning his tricks with an amateur group. This lonely young man has finally found a place to belong. Byrne’s performance notches up at this stage, with hugely entertaining little cameos, displaying his sparky acting skills. . .
The show reaches its apotheosis in a section about his alcoholism. At this point, Byrne sits on the front of the stage, talking directly to the audience. It is a moment of pure theatrical intimacy, enhanced greatly by the old-school tiered auditorium of the Gaiety Theatre.
Directed by Lonny Price, the pacing and build-up of Byrne’s performance is perfect; the early generation of trust blossoms into a torrent of empathy by the end.
Chris Wiegand/The Guardian
February 2, 2022
The actor adapts his impressionistic memoir for the stage, giving life to the characters he observed as a boy in the ‘theatre of the street’
Against the gilded concentric frames of Sinéad McKenna’s elegant set, Byrne moves from desk to bench to bar stool to recount and enact episodes. The humour is often gentle but sometimes overegged: a neighbour with “new teeth like a row of fridges” is glimpsed memorably on the page but that simile is less vivid when the woman is also imitated. Byrne is a beautiful writer and some of the other details he conjures need space to linger. But he is also a wonderful physical comedian, evoking another neighbour whose gait resembled treading on mattresses.
Most powerfully, Byrne affectionately adopts the voices of his mother and father, who provide the show with its best one-liners. He was the eldest of six children: how did they ever fit into the ramshackle home, he wonders, and later recalls the sensation of stepping for the first time on to carpet when he visits a fancy hotel with his mum. He is adept at capturing the constant bewilderments of childhood, artfully blurring it into a befuddlement of older age. . .
That blend of curiosity and confusion is a constant. Was this really me, Byrne seems to ask. Are these memories mine? There are other constants throughout his life: shame, isolation, worthlessness but also a benevolence that even sees him pity, while not forgive, the priest who abused him as a child when he tracks him down in later life.
Byrne finds a sense of belonging – after stints as a plumber and a dishwasher – through the theatre, depicting the warmth while also puncturing the pomposity he encounters in his first forays into am-dram. The memoir recounted his first romances but the grand passion in this stage version is, fittingly, for acting itself. As he recreates his first cinema trip with his grandmother, we see laughter, fear and above all bliss spread across his face and he is a child again.
Be sure to read the Byrneholics postings about Walking With Ghosts on the stage in Dublin, Edinburgh, London, and on Broadway in the USA to see more pics and more information about Gabriel both on stage and behind the scenes.
Many thanks to all of Gabriel’s fans and friends who shared their experiences as he brought his book to life on the stage.
And much love to Gabriel Byrne, for writing your book, which was a magical act in itself, and then transforming it, using some amazing alchemy all your own, into an unforgettable, heart-tugging, spellbinding adventure. Kudos. Toi toi toi. You created your own luck. And you did go home again. heart