Thursday, January 20, 2011

Famous Faces and the Lyric Theatre: Michéal MacLiammóir

The Lyric sought from its earliest days to foster relationships with other theatrical figures and institutions in Ireland. Some evidence of this has surfaced in the form of correspondence between Mary O’Malley and Michéal MacLiammóir, who along with his partner Hilton Edwards established the Gate Theatre in Dublin.
Like Mary, MacLiammóir was a devotee of W.B. Yeats and his own ideas on the theatre were heavily influenced by Yeats. As a youth in his native London, the then Alfred Willmore became fascinated with the Irish language and taught himself before changing his name to the much more Celtic ‘MacLiammóir’. He had acted since his childhood, and while on a tour of Ireland with Anew MacMaster in 1927 met Hilton Edwards. The pair would go on to form the Dublin Gate Theatre Studio the following year, with their earliest productions being staged at the Peacock Theatre. These productions parallel the Lyric’s early years in that they were both working with severely limited space, but not allowing this to curtail their ambitions.
Mary contacted MacLiammóir after he neglected to mention the Lyric when speaking on Irish theatre. She did this not out of pride, but out of a desire to create a more inclusive Irish theatrical community, regardless of borders and divisions. As can be seen in the letter  above(click through for an enlarged version), MacLiammóir was apologetic about his oversight of the Lyric’s work, ‘so nobly done’. Forgiveness was given and relations were obviously repaired, as this telegram shows (sent in 1978).

There are several more links between the NUI Galway theatre archives and Michéal MacLiammóir. He was instrumental in the establishment of An Taibhdhearc, the Irish language theatre, in 1928. MacLiammóir mentions in the letter above that he has just returned from working with John Huston in Rome (on The Kremlin Letter). The archives of An Taibhdhearc are deposited in our archives, as are the John Huston papers. These collections are available to researchers on request.

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