Fascinating film, in which Cork poet Theo Dorgan examines how ‘The Laughing Boy’, a poem about Michael Collins, became an anthem of resistance against Greek dictatorship, will be screened later this month
The remarkable story of how a poem penned by one of Ireland’s greatest writers about one of the country’s most celebrated revolutionary leaders became an anthem in the struggle for Greek democracy is set to unfold on our TV screens through the words of a Cork poet.
Written in the 1930s by a then 12-year-old rebel by the name of Brendan Behan ‘The Laughing Boy’ laments the death of another iconic Irish rebel, the great Michael Collins.
Years later, Behan would incorporate the poem into his 1958 play ‘The Hostage’, which was first staged in London and then Paris where it came to the attention of legendary Greek composer and lyricist Mikis Theodorakis.
Translated into Greek by poet Vassilis Rotas ‘To Yelasto Paidi’ as it became known, was set to music by Theodorakis, subsequently becoming a powerful left-wing anthem of resistance against the dictatorship that ruled Greece in the late sixties and early seventies.
To this day, the song remains am enduring and potent cultural force at the very heart of the Greek psyche.
‘An Buachaill Gealgháireach’, a trilingual production that will be screened on TG4 at 9.30pm on Wednesday, August 24, sees Cork poet Theo Dorgan undertake a Greek odyssey of his own as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the song and the myths that surround it.
While it is a narrative that interweaves the tragic and bloody birth-pangs of both modern Ireland and modern Greece, these histories are also bound together by something more profound and transcendent - the power of a song.
As Dorgan says in the film, both the Irish and Greek versions “capture something unique”.
“Some idea, perhaps, of the eternal rebel, some embodiment of revolt against small destiny, tyranny, the forces that tend always and everywhere to diminish if not actually crush our sense of the necessary largeness of life and the imagination,” he says.
Shot in Ireland, France and Greece, the film also features an evocative soundtrack with performances by some of Ireland’s finest contemporary musicians including Donal Lunny, MayKay, Liam Ó Maonlaí and David Power.
In addition, it also features music by popular Greek musicians and singers, including Maria Farantouri, who is regarded globally as the pre-eminent interpreter of the songs of Theodorakis.