Tuesday, November 26, 2019

JIM NOLAN can deservedly exhale. ‘The Red Iron’, his new Waterford-based play, has sold out its entire run at Garter Lane Arts Centre

“The nerves before a play are the same for me now as they’ve always been,” Jim told the Waterford News & Star.

“Just as the writing is as much of a challenge now as it was first time out, and coming to it as a director there’s the added burden of not having anyone at the helm to share it with, and with this play I was also one of the producers – we’re mounting this ourselves. If it had gone under financially I’d have been busking in Red Square on Christmas Eve – I kid you not. There was a lot riding on this aside from how people would respond to this artistically.

“We needed to sell seats and thanks be to God that has happened and there’s been a wonderful response to the play and we’ve sold out, which is fantastic news.”

Reflecting on the “enormous well of support” the play has received through its Fund It campaign, Jim stated: “That was a month-long campaign and we reached our target, I think, in the first week. And that was a testament to the deep well of goodwill that’s out there to me personally, for my plays and I think also due to the fact that this particular play was a return to my home base.

“I tend to write about and hide behind small fictional towns and it was a shock to me, in the wake of writing ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew You’ that I hadn’t set a play in my home place since ‘The Gods Are Angry, Miss Kerr’ way back in 1985… and I waited for the idea of this play to take root but I resolved that whatever the play would be, that it would be set in Waterford. I sat back, waited, got lucky one day when opening the ‘News & Star’ and saw this gift in front of me, a beautiful shot of the Red Iron Bridge and it went from there.”

Remembering Niall Tóibín

An eventful week for Jim Nolan was also marked by the death of the biggest theatrical name he ever worked with, Niall Tóibín, who died on Wednesday, November 13, a week shy of his 90th birthday.

The Cork actor, best known for his TV roles in ‘The Irish RM’ and ‘Ballykissangel’, starred as Sylvie Tansey in the Ben Barnes-directed production of ‘The Salvage Shop’, which was staged at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre in 1998.

“Ben had worked with Niall in a 1987 production of ‘The Field’ in which he played the Bull McCabe so he said to me we might as well start at the top when it comes to casting, he said – we won’t get him but we’ll ask,” he said.

“We posted the script to him, thinking it would take a month or so for him to say no but he rang a couple of hours after he got it and he was really complimentary and that he was going to do it. It was so exciting, as much a shock as it was a thrill.”

When it came to discussing the leading actor’s fee, Jim and Liam Rellis (then Red Kettle’s General Manager) met the man himself at The Westbury Hotel for lunch.

“When we looked at the menu before Niall came in, Liam both said we’d better land this fella – it was 30 quid for the set lunch – so we were going to be down 100 quid for the lunch! Niall was a pussycat over lunch, he was very excited about it and we had a great time with him that day; he was incredibly honest in declaring his affection for the play.

“We agreed a fee that was probably half of what he’d have gotten for his one man show but he truly invested in the show, he did a fantastic job and we were really, really lucky to have him. He was a tough customer, he knew what he wanted on every level, including with the script and he made great demands of me as a writer and of the production and in turn he delivered on his end of the bargain. Niall was fiercely honest and had great integrity but I consider it one of the great privileges of my life to have worked with him. We were blessed to get him.”

Pictured at the opening night of ‘The Red Iron’ were, from left: Jim Nolan, City & County Mayor Cllr John Pratt, Michael Grant, Mary Roche and Padraig Ó Gríofa. Photo: Joe Evans

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