Sunday 25 February 2018

Roddy Doyle ordered to swear he has only one version of play

Tim Healy

NOVELIST Roddy Doyle must provide a sworn statement that he has only one version of a play he allegedly co-wrote with a man who is suing him and the Abbey Theatre for copyright infringement, a High Court judge ruled.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna today said he did not understand why Mr Doyle had not made this quite clear in a court document he provided as part of his defence of an action being brought by dramatist Bisi Adigun against the Abbey and the novelist over a modern version of the "Playboy of the Western World".

The main character, playboy Christy Mahon, is a Nigerian asylum seeker in this version.

Mr Justice Hanna was speaking when ruling in favour of an application by Mr Adigun seeking that Mr Doyle furnish him with the alleged second Playboy script.

Mr Doyle had "no excuse" for not making it clear he did not have a second version when he swore an affidavit in response to Mr Adigun's application for disclosure of documents in preparation for the Adigun action, the judge said.

"He is a craftsman with words, if he (Doyle) does not understand the affidavit he is swearing, it does not reflect particularly well on him," the judge said.

He ordered Mr Doyle to swear in a new affidavit that there was only ever one script, as his defence team had told the court yesterday, and that no alternative existed. He also granted costs of the application to Mr Adigun.

In his application for disclosure, or "discovery" as it is legally known, Mr Adigun claimed 120 changes had been made to the the version he co-wrote with Mr Doyle and which was successfully produced in the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2007.

In his main action, he claims the Abbey, against his wishes, and in conjunction with Mr Doyle, remounted "a distorted version" in 2008/9, produced by director Jimmy Fay.

Mr Adigun, a dramatist and director/produced, of Moorefield Cottages, Roebuck Road, Clonskaeagh, Dublin, is suing the Abbey, Mr Fay and Mr Doyle over that staging of the play.

Mr Doyle, who was not in court yesterday, along with the other two defendants are, disputing Mr Adigun's claims.

In an affidavit by solicitors for Mr Doyle, it is stated his (Doyle's) consent was required for the first staging of the play in 2007.

It had not been sought or obtained in an agreement for that staging but Mr Doyle had not wanted to prevent that first run as that would have had harsh economic consequences for those involved. He had however reserved his rights and contended the agreement for that first staging amounted to a fundamental breach of contract.

Mr Doyle also intended to fully defend the claims against him concerning the second staging of the play in late 2008. To his knowledge, no changes were made to the script for that and he had no liability in that regard.

In his statement of claim, Mr Adigun said, while writing an essay entitled "An Irish Joke, a Nigerian Laughter" for a book of essays in 2003, he thought it would be "a marvellous idea" to write a modern version of the Playboy with a Nigerian refugee as Christy Mahon.

He said he had founded a theatre company, Arambe Productions in 2003, and contacted the Abbey to enquire about staging the play on the Abbey.

Mr Adigun said he approached Mr Doyle to co-write the play to make it an intercultural collaboration and also got a €10,000 a grant from the Arts Council for Arambe.

With that money, he and Mr Doyle were engaged and formally commissioned by Arambe to co-author the play under an agreement of February 6, 2006, he claims.

Another memorandum of agreement drawn up by Mr Doyle's agent, dated January 16, 2006, provided for him and Mr Doyle to abide by the terms of the Arambe contract and to agree in writing to any post-Arambe productions, he also claims.

He says when the play premiered at the Dublin Theatre festival and ran for seven weeks, the Abbey failed to pay some €20,860 royalties.

Mr Adigun also alleges Mr Doyle later entered a separate licence agreement with the Abbey for the purpose of mounting another production and this "unauthorised" production ran from mid-December 2008 to January 31, 2009.

The staging of that production without his consent infringed his copyright and his moral rights because substantial alterations and "mutilations" were carried out to the text and stage directions, he claims.

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