Next week sees the opening of John Patrick Shanley’s prize-winning play Doubt: a Parable at the Town Hall, a highpoint of the venue’s current season.
Ahead of its opening Town Hall director Mike Diskin sat down to preview the play but also to talk candidly about his health. Within the arts community it has been known for some time that he has not been well and he began our interview with a frank acknowledgement of his condition.
“I’ve been diagnosed with cancer and it’s pretty serious,” he states matter-of-factly. “I’ve been in and out of hospital and taken sick leave but I am back at work now and for the moment I’m not required to do any treatment.
“I’m committed to keeping theatre going in Galway, the work here keeps me going and has always been very important to me on a personal level. And it’s not just doing the routine stuff, it’s about doing special things like this play Doubt.
“It’s important in the Town Hall mix that as well as the touring shows and big Druid productions that we give a chance to other Galway productions and here we have a Galway director, Andrew Flynn, and two Galway actors, Brid Ní Neachtain and Diarmuid de Faoite, in the lead roles as well as a first major role for GYT graduate Seona Tully.”
Diskin expands on how Doubt fits into the overall Town Hall programme.
“Our lead project this year is DruidMurphy and we’re so lucky as a venue to have these Druid shows. The next layer of shows in our schedule are those shows which enable Galway-based artists to show their wares to the public. I’m convinced people will always go to shows for different reasons and supporting local artists is one.
“What’s nice about Doubt is we’ve gone away from the Irish repertoire. There are a lot of very good American plays that don’t get seen here. This one is very skilfully written, the sharpness of the writing is what makes the play special, you have this head-to-head between this crusty old nun and a charming young priest.
“When it was first staged in America there were gasps from the audience at each new twist and turn in the plot. It’s like an old fashioned mystery thriller. It’s not so much about the church scandals of recent years it’s about two big power figures battling it out in a struggle for the truth.”
Providing top-quality theatre remains a key part of the Town Hall’s mission and Mike outlines some of the venue’s upcoming attractions.
“We have a ‘drama day’ on February 25 which will feature two rehearsed readings of new plays, and casting director Maureen Hughes is coming down to give a talk about getting into acting so it’s a day for people who want to get involved in the business,” he says.
“We’ve also started a theatre club to try and grow our audience. People want to understand drama more and post-show talks are increasingly popular and we’re very keen to hear feedback from our audience regarding what sort of plays they want to see. There’s always space in our programme for musicals, concerts, and comedy but I want to ensure we always have quality drama as well.
“One of the forthcoming highlights will be Red Kettle coming here in June with Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls. Also, Mayo author/director Mick Donnellan has done a few shows in the studio here and we are going to give him a go on the main stage at the end of June with a new play, he is someone who has brought out a new audience for us.
“Local company Mephisto had a very successful production last August with Bryan McMahon’s The Honey Spike and they will be back with another large-cast main-stage show this coming August.”
Doubt: a Parable runs at the Town Hall from Tuesday February 21 to Saturday 25 at 8pm.