We are in the second month of 2022, and I may already have enjoyed the theatre experience of the year. If I witness anything better, it will have to rank as exceptional.
The bad news is that Walking With Ghosts, written and performed by Gabriel Byrne, finished its world premiere, short sell-out run at the Gaiety Theatre in the first week of this month. The good news is that there will be a brief window of opportunity to watch it on demand from 26 February to 4 March.
Tickets for this online viewing range in price from €25 to €50, and you can watch it as often as you wish during the seven-day time frame. I can assure readers that you will not stop at watching it once. This is a theatrical tour de force and it will live in the memory for a very long time.
This solo performance is adapted from Byrne’s best-selling memoir of the same name, and directed by Emmy award-winning director Lonny Price. The on-demand performance was recorded live at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin on 5 February.
This appearance by Byrne was his first on an Irish stage since he played the part of Mr Holmes in Noel Pearson’s production of Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy, wait for it – in June 1978. He also played the minor role of Joe in the same play.
Byrne was in good company doubling up, as Mick Lally, Ronnie Walsh and Cathryn Brennan also played multiple parts. Niall Tóibín and Jim Sheridan were in the lead roles as Behan the elder and younger.
Moving between a sensual recollection of childhood in a now almost-vanished Ireland and a commentary on stardom in Hollywood and on Broadway, Walking With Ghosts is a story that will resonate with people of all ages as Byrne returns to his home town in Dublin to reflect on a life’s journey. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Walking with Ghosts is a lyrical homage to the people and landscapes that ultimately shape our destinies.
So many of the themes that run through the performance will evokes images and memories for almost everyone, and the story is one that will travel. Though many of the experiences are Ireland-centric, they will reflect the experiences of people in many corners of the world. Alcoholism, sexual abuse, mental illness, fame and family dynamics; all will touch a chord with people of many different cultures and nationalities.
Byrne’s presence is commanding, but his delivery is such that he lets the words and the stories take the spotlight. He is on stage for more than two hours, but it hardly seems enough. While some of the stories will bring tears to your eyes, he is never mawkish, and he intersperses the performances with tales of fun and hilarity too.
Gabriel Byrne has been in more than 90 movies, some of which have achieved classic status in the history of the screen. He has worked with some of cinema’s leading directors. However, when the time comes, long into the future, he will look back on Walking With Ghosts as being close to his finest work.