IN 1979 the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, religious and secular Iranians united to oust the oppressive dictatorship of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Sandinistas took control of Nicaragua, and in the dying moments of the FA Cup final, Alan Sunderland’s goal secured victory for Arsenal after a remarkable comeback by Manchester United.
It was in this year that Pink Floyd released what is arguably the most famous and provocative concept album of all time - The Wall. It is Floyd bassist and chief songwriter Roger Waters’ bleak and deeply personal narrative of how the pain of past memories and present events leads an individual (named Pink ) to withdraw completely from society and those closest to him.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the release of this iconic album, Galway’s Genesis Theatre Group will present a stage adaptation of The Wall - which has the blessing of Roger Waters - in Leisureland from Thursday March 26 to Saturday 28 at 8.30pm.
The idea for the show came from its producer Seán Ó Máille, who was turned onto Pink Floyd by the release of the single ‘Another Brick In The Wall pt 2’ in December 1979.
“I’ve been a fan since that song came out,” Seán tells me as we sit for the interview on a Thursday afternoon. “Lines like ‘we don’t need no education’ and ‘teacher leave those kids alone’, appealed to every rebellious teenager in school.”
Seán got the album and discovered more musical gems in the form of ‘Comfortably Numb’ and ‘Run Like Hell’, but as he got older the story the album was telling and its themes resonated with him deeply - even moreso when Alan Parker’s film version, with animations by Gerald Scarfe and starring Bob Geldof, was released in 1982.
“It resonated with my own life very closely,” he says. “Looking at the film was like looking at my life on the screen. When I saw the performance The Wall in 1990 in Berlin of I thought it would be a great idea to do it as a stage show. The idea has stayed with me since and as this is the 30th anniversary I thought ‘Let’s do it’.”
Before the show could be created though, it needed the blessing of the man who created it - Roger Waters.
“Anna Hesford rooted out Roger Waters’ manager through the Brain Damage website,” says Seán. “I wrote to him, telling him about the company, what we wanted to do, and how I felt The Wall resonated with my life. It took three months to get a response but he gave it the rubber stamp. He said ‘Go for it’ and it’s nice to get that validation. His letter to me is framed and on my wall.”
The Wall promises to be a spectacular production with set design by Dave Carr. The back of the stage will be in the form of an arch in which a 28 strong choir, The Bricks, directed by one of Galway’s leading choir masters Mark Keane, will be assembled. “It will be like the inside of Pink’s brain,” says Seán.
As well as conducting The Bricks Choir, Mark Keane will also conduct the Galway Boy Singers for the children’s choir on ‘Another Brick In The Wall pt 2’.
A 10 foot high wall will be constructed as the show progresses. During the second act, three live-feed cameras operated by Dave Brandt, will project pictures, short films, and Gerald Scarfe’s iconic animations from the film onto two 14 x 14 foot screens.
A scaffold to the right of the audience will have multiple purpose; The fascist pulpit for ‘In The Flesh’, a metal hopper for the boys’ choir, and the judge’s bench for the trial scene.
All involved in this production are Pink Floyd fans. The script is by Sandra Murphy and Seán Ó Máille. Among the cast are Seán Ó Máille (Pink ), Keith Davies (the doctor ), and Declan Foster (young Pink ). The Quality Sweets dancers - Natalia Krause, Charlotte Richardson, Gina Arrigan, Helena Hennigan, Stephanie Hasler, and Elaine Mears - will perform during the song ‘Young Lust’.
The musicians for the show are Pat Hargan (lead guitar ), Fiach O’Craddock (second lead guitar ), Steve O’Mahoney (drums ), Charles Carr (bass ), Padraig Madden (keyboards ), JoeAnn Cater (piccolo/flute/saxophones ), and Pat Corless (tuba/trombone ).
While The Wall is one of rock’s most famous albums, in the last 15 years it’s status has been eclipsed by 1973’s Dark Side Of The Moon and 1967’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, as the album Floyd fans would consider the band’s finest achievement. Do Genesis Theatre Company feel the album has been somewhat sidelined?
“It’s not as well understood,” says Dave Carr. “It’s not an easy album to get into as there is so much there. I think it’s a fantastic piece of work.”
“It deals with a lot of hard issues, psychologically,” says Seán, “and people may not feel comfortable moving into that zone.”
Indeed this production of The Wall will not flinch from the often dark and disturbing themes explored by Waters on the original album.
“A lot of the characters in The Wall have serious ‘issues’,” says the show’s director Elaine Enright, “and the cast have to go there with the character and try to get out of it again. The Wall deals with the issues that can lead to depression. Every time we start something it’s scary. The cast discussions can feel like psychoanalyst discussions. Ultimately we want audiences to be slightly afraid, but willing to go there.”
“I think it will move people,” says Seán, “and because of the themes it deals with, the show will be making a donation to Console and The Samaritans.”
Tickets are €30/25 plus booking fee and are available from Zhivago, Shop Street. See also www.genesistheatregroup.com