David Hennessy spoke to Pat Shortt about his dark turn in Dark Lies the Island, the dark side of Ireland it depicts and the passing of Gay Byrne.
“He’s just dark,” Pat Shortt tells The Irish World of his greedy patriarch in Dark Lies the Island. “He’s a f**ker, ya know? Horrible, horrible person but a great character. It’s very different to anything I’ve done before.
“I’ve traditionally been, like in Garage kind of a simple character, a heart warming character or in The Belly of the Whale, kind of psycho type character.”
Pat plays Daddy Mannion, the patriarch and businessman whose greed has seen him take over everything and everyone in the whole town to the detriment of his own kids: “He’s not nice. He’s domineering and he’s horrible the way he treats the wife. He treats everyone like a commodity and that’s what his whole life is like.
“He’s quite prepared to walk all over his own family to be the powerful. There’s a line it where he’s kind of nodding to the wife, ‘Come to bed, I’ve given the child a tablet’. His own daughter, he’s given her a sleeping tablet so that he can have sex. F**king evil.”
Pat talks about the sterling cast that includes Charlie Murphy as his wife and Tommy Tiernan as a “confused individual” as well as Peter Coonan and Moe Dunford as his long suffering sons.
“He’s the main man in the town and he’s a businessman and he’s an undertaker. He’s a stereotypical type of character in Ireland: Undertaker/auctioneer/hardware shops. Do you know what I mean? He has a load of roles. He’s not but you can see him being the local councillor as well, you know that kind of way? It’s all about power. It’s all about money and greed and power.
“It does give a reflection of what Irish society is like. Kevin kind of writes about an underbelly in Irish society. People have a romantic view of Ireland in some respects but there’s an awful dark side to it as well and in his writing he does really reflect that.”
Pat believes Kevin’s dark humour is unique and the Ireland he brings to life is unique but there are similarities with other writers such as Martin McDonagh whose Skull of Connemara he has just finished performing at Dublin’s Olympia: “There’s a couple of Irish writers that are kind of in that genre and they’re all very different. Definitely Kevin Barry, Martin McDonagh, Pat McCabe, Patrtick McGinley.
“A lot of them have spoken about topics and not afraid to call it as it is. I did The Cripple of Inishmaan in London and I remember the first time I saw it back in the 90’s when the National put it on. I was over there doing the Tricycle Theatre myself at the time. I was absolutely shocked at the political incorrectness of the Cripple, the ‘cripple this’ and the ‘cripple that’.
“It actually spoke volumes of the characters that they just saw that as natural, nothing wrong with it. Political correctness doesn’t enter in their sphere or world and as a result there’s a rawness to that: The young fella Bartley talking about the priest messing with him and that kind of stuff.
“Going back to the 90’s, that was strong stuff to be tackling. Kevin Barry does it in his own way with this. The fact that I married my son’s girlfriend, a good lot of years between us and there’s a darkness to the sex that he’s having.
“We identify with it for some reason. They’re wonderful writers like that. They can really write a really dark scene that’s almost unbelievable but you can identify with it and believe it.”
Pat was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Gay Byrne and took part in a television tribute on RTE: “It was very, very sad. I knew Gay very, very well. I was lucky enough to work with him on the TV programmes and he used to pop into me after the show on Monday nights in Vicar Street. He used to pop in for a drink after the show, with Gerry Ryan actually, back in the day.
“I would never claim to be a huge friend of Gay’s but I was certainly an acquaintance who knew him well outside of work. He was just a gentleman. An incredible talent and there will be no one like him. Someone said to me, ‘There will never be another Gay Byrne’. But we don’t need another one, we had one. We had a great one so he’ll be sadly missed.
“Times were different. He was there back in the 70s and that, he was cutting edge and not afraid to take on the church or anybody and yet he was a very religious man. He wasn’t sacrilegious. He was very, very religious but he wanted to see the truth coming out and talk honestly about things and expose things.
“I know times have changed, we still don’t want to talk about things but it seems back in those times, there was so much more to talk about. The church dominated the country. It seems stupid now but showing a condom for example. Those type of things, they do seem silly but they were illegal in the country at the time. It was illegal to be gay in the country. He had no problem having people on talking about those subjects and it was brilliant.
“Gay marriage is an interesting one because he put it out there and got people talking about it. A lot of the older voters said, ‘Well if Gay Byrne sees nothing wrong with it, that’s okay with me’. Even when he was finished with the Late Late Show and everything, he was still putting himself out there and championing causes.”
Irish Film Festival London runs 20-24 November at Regent Street Cinema .
Dark Lies the Island plays on Friday 22 November.
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