As one of the first Transition Year Students in Ireland, I was privileged to do a work placement in the Abbey. It was a transformative experience on many levels for which I have had a lifetime of gratitude.
However, one of my ultimate moments was when I was assigned to a dressing room where for the amazing Siobhan McKenna was stationed. Having seen her extraordinary performances in several theatres I was awestruck. She was kindness and graciousness personified. We were chatting, when the door opened and in came Brian Friel. Brian and Siobhan spoke away in Irish automatically; she introduced me and he began to tease me as a Dublin girl who would as like have little blas/fluency.
I did my best, grateful that my Mum had Donegal Irish so I wasn’t lost. Siobhan then chided Brian, saying how disappointed she was that he hadn’t called in to one of the rehearsals. He smiled at her and said ‘You now me, Siobhan. I write the play and then get off the stage’. I was so struck by the relationship they had, and the mutual understanding of roles etc. However many, many years later, now as I work in an educational policy space, his wisdom comes back to me again and again. Policy contributors may get to write a scene or two, but then they must leave the stage, and let theatre begin.
I remain struck by the kindness of those I met over my work placement and their generous sharing of their insights and advice.