ONE OF the most talked about shows at last year’s Galway Arts Festival was Silent, written and performed by Pat Kinevane and produced by Dublin’s Fishamble Theatre Company.
The play, which went on to win both a Fringe First and a Herald Angel award at Edinburgh, now makes a welcome return to the Town Hall Theatre, next Wednesday February 15 at 8pm.
Silent is the touching story of a homeless man, Tino McGoldrig, who once had splendid things. But he has lost it all – including his mind. He now dives into the wounds of his past through the romantic world of Rudolph Valentino in this brave, bleak, and beautiful production.
The play has received numerous rave reviews; Scotland’s The Herald called it a “fabulous dance of whirling words...a bravura outpouring of sorrow, anger, hurt and lacerating wit”. The Irish Times found it “a moving story, which, until its end, pulses with the erratic noise of life”. Irish Theatre Magazine described it as “humane, funny and enlightening”.
This is Kinevane’s fourth play for Fishamble and he began by praising the role of Fishamble director Jim Culleton in nurturing his writing.
“I was always writing and scribbling stuff down since I was a teenager without ever really knowing what to do with it,” Kinevane reveals. “I had worked with Jim as an actor and he asked me one day was I writing anything and I said I was so he asked to have a look at it and that developed into my first full-length play, The Nun’s Wood.
“That went really well for us and each time after that when I started to write I just felt nurtured. I think it’s important that people are nurtured and that they aren’t compared to other writers, that there is a certain amount of freedom allowed and at the same time a lot of guidance. Jim has a great ear for language and works with new writing all the time. I’m lucky to have met Fishamble when I did and have the benefit of their expertise.”
Kinevane goes on to describe the character Silent’s protagonist Tino McGoldrig.
“He’s one of those people who’s had a lot going on in his life,” says the playwright. “At one stage he says ‘I had splendid things, a job and a wife and a son’, but through a process of loss he finds himself without anything.
“He experiences the demise of his mental health and that leads to him losing his home and ending up on the street and then he’s in the vicious circle of losing more of his mental health and not being able to claw his way out of this quicksand.
“We meet him when he is down as far as he can go but at the same time he is quite accepting of it and he describes the hilarity of it as well, of what he notices around him from his level, on the footpath, and the world looks very different from down there, you only see the world from the knees down.”
Kinevane spent two years researching the issue of homelessness before writing Silent. What sort of things did he learn?
“I discovered I was very biased, even though I didn’t think I was, and that I was very judgmental and that I was very ignorant – and I still am,” he says. “I’m still learning lessons about it, about how people can be left behind by society and how we can misconstrue that.
“When we look at homeless people on the street we can make snap judgments such as ‘Why don’t you get up and get a life for yourself’ – but that’s easier said than done. I discovered that I’m very lucky in my life, I have a roof over my head.
“There were definitely epiphanies along the way. The first place I really noticed homelessness was New York when I was there about four years ago and I couldn’t believe the amount of homeless people there, and I saw the same recently in Los Angeles. I was also in Bulgaria recently and it was the same there, it’s a worldwide problem.”
The Valentino connection
Parts of Tino’s story are told through re-enacting episodes from the films of silent-movie icon Rudolph Valentino, after whom he was named.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the whole silent movie period and particularly by Valentino who was the biggest movie star of all time,” Kinevane explains. “No-one has topped his popularity since. His death, when he was only 31, caused chaos, his fans were hysterical, there were cases of people trying to kill themselves.
“I was fascinated by the power of an icon like that. He was also somebody who, in a way, was at one point homeless himself. When he first went to New York he had absolutely nothing and he initially made his way as, essentially, a gigolo.
“I wanted to present the story through the eyes of that romantic period, as a love story, a tragedy, and a comedy, and very much through gesture and body language.”
Kinevane is relishing the prospect of bringing Silent back to Galway, not least because the performance is in aid of COPE. Tickets for the show are €18/16 and are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie Early booking is advisable.