One of the few good things to emerge from the pandemic – and I grant you there are not many – is the rise of the Live Stream. How many times have you seen something advertised and thought if only I could see that. Well now you can. My ticket cost 25 Euro (about £21) which included a PDF program to download. A bargain I tell you.
Filmed during it’s run at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre and made available on demand worldwide -the last day is today, Walking With Ghosts is a one man play performed by Gabriel Byrne based on his book of the same name.
I have been a fan of Gabriel’s for years, however until now I have not been fortunate enough to see him outside of a film or TV show so here was my opportunity. My birthday is not far off so when my husband asked what I wanted I told him about this.
Before I get into the play itself, I must congratulate the people responsible for filming and editing the live stream. They did a magnificent job, made you feel as if you were part of the audience even though I was sat on my sofa at home.
The stage set consisted of a couple of chairs, a stool, a desk and a bench seat. During the play they become a baby’s crib, a knackered old van, a cinema seat and various other details in Gabriel’s stories.
The lighting is very clever, plunging the stage into darkness at several points during the performance, Byrne then reappearing in another spot. I did wonder how he manged that without tripping over something! There were also sound effects which added to the overall atmosphere, the wonder of a fair ground, prayers in school, paparazzi cameras and so on.
The running time is over 2 hours but honestly it could be half an hour, three days, a week even because I was so drawn into it I lost track of time.
Gabriel is a wonderful storyteller, he has you believing that all the other “characters” are there on stage with him, his mother and father, brothers and sisters, his granny, Titus the Liar, all gathered together. Each one is treated with a great deal of respect, even the ones we may think don’t deserve it.
It is full of laugh out loud Irish humour, jokes for “all occasions”, wry observations about the people he came across in life. There is pathos, sadness and a truly creepy retelling of the abuse he suffered whilst training to be a priest. You could have heard a pin drop.
It goes without saying that Gabriel is a very talented actor but this performance is incredible. It is nuanced, measured, not a double, treble or quadruple take is wasted. He moves from over excited little boy at his first cinema trip all the way through to being drunk with Richard Burton seamlessly. Suddenly sobering to tell the audience “We were both lying” regarding their alcoholism. Sitting on the stage as he talked of his own battle with drink brought an even more intimate and honest feel. As if he was stepping out from the play for a moment.
I have watched it twice now, even though I *knew* what was going to happen somehow Gabriel still managed to surprise me. Walking With Ghosts is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen on a stage. Gabriel has the presence, gravitas and charm to hold an audience in rapt attention for however long he sees fit. He could indeed go on stage and read a take away menu. We’d all pay to see it and enjoy every moment.
At the end, a well deserved standing ovation from both myself – good job my curtains were drawn- and the theatre audience. I don’t know if Gabriel intends to tour with this production but I would first in line for a ticket to experience it live.
Normally at the end of reviews people put their rating out of 5 or 10. There aren’t enough numbers to rate this. It is above being rated. You can’t put a score on this kind of performance. It is a real masterpiece.
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