A Life at the Library

Pictured above, from left to right: Sarah Thorpe Victor Feldman and Mary Guickan.

Pictured above, from left to right: Sarah Thorpe Victor Feldman and Mary Guickan.

Readers of NewsFour will be familiar with the poet Mary Guckian, whose verses have been featured in our pages before, and who was one of our Poets in Profile in 2014.

This year, Mary’s words have lead to the creation of a play by actor, director and playwright Victor Feldman titled A Life. Written in the form of a play for radio, A Life is scripted with parts for six actors.

The first public performance took place in the Irish Writer’s Centre on February 16th. This event was also a wine reception and the official launch of the print edition of the play, published by Swan Press.

NewsFour was on the scene for the run-up to the second performance of A Life at the Pearse St. library on Wednesday March 18th. Afterwards, we spoke with Victor to see how he felt things had gone and how the play had been received so far.

“Oh, it went swimmingly. After the Writer’s Centre we were concerned we might have exhausted our audience but the reading (at the library on Pearse Street) was very well attended.”

Asked about the origin of A Life, Victor said he would give the brief version of a long story: “I began writing this about 17 or 18 years ago. It’s a bit embarrassing really. We nearly had to brush the cobwebs off the manuscript. We were going through things in the attic and found a lot of Mary’s long-lost poetry.

It struck me that there was a play in it. Her poetry is very direct to its subject matter, so I wanted to create action around her words. It’s a young woman from a rural background in the big city. That was the seed, the starting point.”

On the page, A Life is stripped right back to the voices, with no stage directions or description beyond what is provided by the narrator. Victor – who is an experienced voice coach and voice actor – was consciously looking for “six strong actor’s voices” to carry the poetic qualities of the play and the brisk exchanges of dialogue. “Over the years I’ve developed a fairly advanced network, so finding people wasn’t too hard.”

The actors – Sarah Byrne, Ron Loughnane and Joan Thorpe – were “people I’d gotten to know along the way” as Victor puts it. “It was one of those things that gelled. We found Ron, who was perfect for the character of Frank, he even looked right for the role, and he had an office on Dame Street, which was a perfect rehearsal space. Some things just come together by fluke.”

Another performance definitely seems on the cards. “We’re thinking of doing it in the International Bar – I’ve done performances there before – or maybe another library. Thinking maybe about the Ilac Centre Library, we’ll have to see.”

A Life is a play for the ear as well as the eye and worth a look for anyone who has a soft spot for radio drama or the theatre.

The print edition of A Life is published by Swan Press and is available at Books on the Green.

By Rúairí Conneely