Saturday 10 December 2016

A genius, both shy and modest, with a vicious turn of phrase

Michael Colgan

Published 03/10/2015 | 02:30

Michael Colgan with Brian Friel at the opening of Friel's version of Chekhov's 'Uncle Vanya' at the Gate Theatre in 2007
Michael Colgan with Brian Friel at the opening of Friel's version of Chekhov's 'Uncle Vanya' at the Gate Theatre in 2007

I first met him 35 years ago, when I was artistic director of the Dublin Theatre Festival. His company, Field Day, had just opened 'Translations' in Derry and he was allowing it to come to Dublin at Festival time. I say 'allowing' it because he thought the festival was "a horse race" but he felt the play would "sit well" at the Gate.

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I had read all about him: his beginnings as a teacher, two years training for the priesthood - a clerical error - and his skirmishes with politics.

When I met him, he looked exactly as he had been - a schoolmaster. An enthusiast once observed: "How can genius look so ordinary?" But it was years later, on meeting Beckett, that I realised that both men were extraordinary in their ordinariness.

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