Spent the day in University preparing for the evening's rehearsed reading of Mary Kenny's play Allegiance a fictional re imagining of a meeting between Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill and Irish Republican Michael Collins that occurred in October 1921 in which both men outline their positions politic and personal and look for a way to progress the Anglo-Irish Treaty Talks. I'd been asked to play Evans, Churchill's butler.
It was a fascinating afternoon watching the speed with which Matthew Marsh, playing Churchill and Colm Gormley, as Collins went about the text. On paper the play had seemed rather expositional, a lesson in history and biography, rather than a lithe political poker game, but as the afternoon went the texture of the piece was teased out, the changes in strategy noted and slowly a more interesting architecture to the play emerged.
Beyond ten or twelve lines of introduction my role was chiefly to fill up the drinks. Mary, who was in the audience for the show, makes it fairly explicit in the script that the men's trust for each other grows the more they put away. Certainly at times when the negotiation became entrenched Churchill's tactic was to pour another drink and carry the conversation into personal territory: love, children, common ground.
It's strange to act again. I haven't done anything on stage for years and in the end I was just relieved not to have sent the accumulating brandy glasses flying.