GALWAY THEATRE company Wolf Meets World are in An Taibhdhearc next week with the Irish premiere of Seamus Scanlon’s The McGowan Trilogy, a trio of one-act plays which have already enjoyed a successful run in New York, winning awards for Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Design at the city’s annual Irish Theatre Festival.
The trilogy centres on Belfast Republican Victor M McGowan (the M stands for murder ), and, home from New York for the plays’ Galway production, author Seamus Scanlon, first discussed with me, how he got into writing.
“I think the reading/writing urge came from my parents," he says. "My father did not go to secondary school but was a great reader. I remember him putting the newspaper on the floor and we would crawl around it trying to decipher the words. Our knees and palms were black from the print. From early on we were reading everything. My mother did go to secondary school but because of rural poverty in Mayo did not have the £50 needed to attend college – that is why she made it her number one priority that we all attend.
"Dan Taheny, an English teacher in the Bish, was also a big influence. Dan played recordings of Dylan Thomas reciting his poetry. It was powerful and moving and I was overwhelmed but I could not let on. I also found the Exploring English series very powerful.
"Dan often read stories to our class from pupils from unremarkable rural and urban Galway such as my classmates Robert Curley, from Cross Street, and John O’Brien, from Mervue, that were very impressive. When Dan read out one of my brother’s stories, he was four years younger than me, I knew it was over! I forgot about writing and studied science. The writing urge lay dormant for many years so I am trying to make up for lost time. I took my first writing class in Galway where I managed to get past one paragraph. That story became the genesis of The McGowan Trilogy.”
Scanlon reveals how the trilogy evolved: “I had written a few one act plays with the central character Victor M McGowan. The first play, Dancing at Lunacy, was produced in New York in 2012 at the Cell Theater. The show went well so the directors at the Cell asked to look at more plays. We worked together to find three one acts that would make sense together and they were presented at the Irish Theater Festival in New York by Origin Theatre Company last September.”
Whereas Dancing at Lunacy takes place in the all-male milieu of a Republican drinking den, interestingly both the other plays sees Victor engage with women.
“Women actors were saying when are you going to write some roles for us so it was good incentive to expand Victor’s character beyond the maniacal persona in Dancing,” Scanlon explains. “The logical extension was for Victor to be in a situation where sticking rigidly to his internal rulebook on crime, punishment, loyalty, devotion to a cause, would be severely tested. So I wrote The Long Wet Grass. It is the ultimate test for Victor – his childhood friend that he was in love with - commits a minor transgression that places Victor in a moral dilemma pitting his rigid rulebook adherence against his mostly submerged instinct to be humane."
Victor and his mother are the focus of Boys Swam Before Me. Victor and his mother have a complicated history which also involves connections to the girl in The Long Wet Grass and Victor has another dilemma to face.
"Victor is his own worst enemy," says Scanlon. "He is high functioning Mensa-material, psychopathic personality with a penchant for guns, puns, the pogo, cruelty and ruthlessness, but he has another dimension that surfaces in the two plays featuring women. He is afraid of nothing except women.”
Scanlon concludes with his thoughts on the plays’ Galway run, and on his own, recently discovered connections to An Taibhdhearc.
“I have great confidence in Wolf Meets World and cast and crew," he says. "I know they all love it so that is a great plus. I am thrilled it is in An Taibhdhearc - I have a connection there although did not know it until recently. My mother sent me to a drama class in Irish in Quay Street. We staged an amateur play with Maeliosa Stafford, even then I knew he was great, and some others. We were portraying IRA volunteers and the shotgun I carried was very heavy plus I forgot my lines so I was scarred for life acting wise. I hope to make amends this time."
The cast for the trilogy is Luke Morgan, Paul Dunning, Aoife Martyn, Jackie Roantree, Paul O’Brien and Eric Ó Máirtín. The director is Adrian Lavelle and the producer is John O’Connor. The trilogy is staged on Friday June 5 at 8pm and Saturday 6 at 2pm and 8pm. Ahead of the plays' run, there will be a staged reading of The Long Wet Grass followed by Q&A with the author, cast, and crew, in Sheridan’s Cheesemonger & Wine Bar this evening at 8pm.
For more information contact 091 - 562024 or email [email protected]. The author is also offering four single tickets to readers who email [email protected] with the answer to the question: What does the M stand for in Victor M McGowan?