I remember a day as a young man in London deciding to shave off my beard. I wasn't working at anything. I knew I would never be an actor so I was living vicariously through my girlfriend who had, remarkably, secured a West End job straight from Drama school. I sat in a basement off Ladbroke Grove and shed the bearded, tweet jacket wearing image, I had been cultivating. It was shocking to see this fresh faced youth looking back at myself. Lost really.
Then the radio announced the Berlin Wall was coming down. What !!! Just like that? No warning, no one had informed me it might happen. No one had suggested I run out and grab a Guardian newspaper and get caught up on what I needed to think. It just happened, or at least I felt like it had just happened. From my perspective. I sat with my baby complexion and watched scores of people drive through this impenetrable divide. It was incredible , and I was shaved for the occasion. It felt like anything was possible in the world.
In a way, ( and I'm aware this may sound absurd too) I feel I'm witnessing something similar in Ireland. This great wall around Theatre has collapsed. It seems almost easy. Although the truth is women have been throwing themselves at it, trying to break it or scale it, while I wandered around the garden inside. Blissfully smelling the flowers . A decade ago I realized it was a garden I didn't want to be in, but thats another story. This garden is about to be cultivated. And it's not before time. The soil is old. It doesn't produce like it used to. Nobody really seems to know what to grow anymore. Nobody really cares what it produces. Lets be honest.
But here come the women. Finally. To save us.To help us all grow together.
The crazy timing of it all really helped. Fiach's mad dash to the airport may be the greatest moment in Irish Theater. Seriously. A PR machine was not able to respond to dampen the questions from the first responders. Lian Bell and Belinda McKeon , among others, were not rebuffed thoroughly enough. The ridiculousness of Fiach charging off on holiday after the business was announced highlighted the complete institutional blindness. His hasty tweets do however show the reason why change will happen. They were very human. He shouldn't have replied , he pressed send . There was no pause. He had a flight to catch, probably a passport to locate and all that too too familiar rush we all are engaged in. And then he went silent.
It was beautiful. A space was created to whisper, shout, rail. Moments of personal reflection buoyed by collective support. #WakeTheFeminists rallied. The wall came down because we on the inside were on vacation. We didn't realize the gate used for entry was hopelessly small. As I watch women stream in now, I see amongst them Irish speakers, Travellers, Immigrants, LGBT,Disabled etc. I hope I do. I see the real world.
So what is it all about I wonder. As I, thankfully get older , I know it all to be play for me. Life is just play and storytelling. Nothing else, for me. I find myself pretending to be something that my deep insecurities tell me I'm not. I act at being a good father, a good husband, a good friend. As I do this people respond to me as if I am and I believe it. And become it. I fail miserably at various times daily of course. But I actively participate in the story of who I am. The world is, in fact , a stage. And we are, indeed, all players. But its no fun playing on your own.
Imagine a playground where we witness boys in control of all the playing structures. Occasionally letting a girl or girls play with us. Imagine that. No, really, conjure it. Ok. When I listened to Fintan O'Toole suggest on the Women's podcast ( with the enlightening Ms Donohue and Ms McKeon) , that a women's theatre festival be set up in response , I guffawed. So his reaction is to create a special corner of the playground for girls to do their own thing. This is a very smart man whom I admire. As is Fiach. And they are just wrong. Not a judgment on the good people they are. They are just wrong. At the moment. No Biggie.
Listen , men. My brothers. The jig is up. We don't own the playground. Our job is to listen and encourage the voiceless to speak. That's all. Here's the thing, these girls won't take over the playground and keep us out, like we did with them. They don't want that, from anything I've seen . They just want to play. We all get to play together. Its a joyous thing. We just have to listen. And let someone else lead. We will all change as a result of this. And it will be better. And we will grow together. It will be uncomfortable, and mistakes will be made by us all. But the change has happened. The wall is down.
Well done to the Abbey for opening it's door to the meeting, and for Fiach to attend. I presume Garry Hynes and Micheal Colgan will be there listening too. And Heather Humphreys ( if she's not too busy searching for the next board member for IMMA) . And Orlaith McBride. I will be listening with great excitement . Maybe even on Irish radio that we now learn has 78% male voices ..... well I mean that has to change too , right? Who decided that ? Thats not right is it? I guess that should be changed while we're here. And what exactly is going on in the Film and TV industry? Who has the numbers ? Its all about numbers you see. Just plain simple numbers. Not hysterical women.
And while we're here , who the hell says I decide what happens in your body. In YOUR frigging body ! ah here....
Before the meeting starts in the Abbey, some of the leaders of the group hosting the meeting should stand outside the GPO and read a proclamation that women voices will be heard, and then walk down Abbey St.. Turns out the Revolution will start 99 years later.
Thats just a suggestion by the way. I'm not telling you what to do. I'm really just interested in listening. Its not my time . Its women's time . I know that.