Thursday 21 September 2017

Government pays no attention to the role of our actors, says theatre chief

Michael Colgan
Michael Colgan
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Gate Theatre artistic director Michael Colgan has claimed the Government is funding bad art and writing.

"Bad artists, bad writers are given money by the Government under the heading of Aosdana. An actor, however great he or she is, is not given any subvention," he said last night.

"County councillors and solicitors go on to Prime Time. They never ask an actor. They never ask actors their opinion. They are maligned. Yet I know that the reason I'm here at the Gate for 30 years is because of the company I keep," he said referring to actors Owen Roe, Stephen Brennan, Ingrid Craigie and the late Donal McCann.

"These are great actors – really extraordinary people. Barry McGovern is one of the most intelligent people I've ever met. They're not going to make him a senator. No one's going to do anything to actors except tap them on their heads and say: 'How do you learn all those lines?'"

"So I decided that the Gate has benefited enormously from the talent and the commitment and professionalism of actors that I am going to do something for these great, great actors," Colgan said, referring to the inaugural World Actors Forum taking place at the Gate Theatre next weekend in Dublin.

Big names taking part include Michael Gambon, Charles Dance, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons and Penelope Wilton – known by millions as Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey. Other participants include actors from the Lebanon, Tunisia, Palestine and the Belarus Theatre Project.

Organiser Colgan said that the forum "will make Dublin the champion city of actors".

Supported by Minister Jimmy Deenihan, the weekend is an initiative of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Gate Theatre in partnership with the Arts Council, the Irish Film Board and Failte Ireland.

It will, says Colgan, "celebrate the role of the actor on stage, on screen and in the broader context of society".

"We have a group of people who are absolutely vital to the well-spring and to the whole cultural health of this city and other cities," he added. "And yet, they are the least respected. They don't decide what play they're in. They don't decide who's acting with them. They don't decide how much money they get. They don't decide what the play is or how long it runs for. They don't decide anything. And yet they continue to go badly paid – and they give so much.

"Look at someone like Angelina Jolie, who can say 'I've had a double mastectomy' – and in that one sentence she has done more for breast cancer awareness than all the medical centres around the world. She can do that. George Clooney can do it for Darfur; Cate Blanchett can do it for the environment and so forth. Yet we don't celebrate our actors," continued Colgan.

"If anyone knew what they get paid, they would be horrified. I have been 30 years at The Gate and whatever success we have had, it is not because we are a writers' theatre – it is because we are an actors' theatre. I think, it is time, after 30 years, that we should give something back.

"So I want to celebrate the role of the actor in our society. You would say: 'You don't need to do that.' But I do," he added passionately. .

"The World Actors Forum in 2013 is only the beginning," Colgan told me with a knowing smile last night. "You know, the World Economic Forum started in Davos in someone's front room."

Irish Independent

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