Gary Mitchell

Life
1965- ; ed. Rathcoole Secondary School; worked first as NI civil service clerk; read through dictionary and thesaurus on discovering that he ‘had no language’; his first play, The World, the Flesh and the Devil, concerned a Protestant couple whose debts are bought by the UDA with the inevitable pay-off; adapted for Radio, winner of BBC competition, broadcast in 1991; a play, Independent Voice (1993), staged in Belfast; In a Little World of Our Own (1997), delayed four years at the Lyric Theatre by controversy surrounding its loyalist paramilitary context;

invited to Dublin by Christopher Fitzsimon of the Abbey Board in the wake of his winning Stewart Parker award for Radio Drama, where In a Little World of Our Own was dir. Conall Morrison at Peacock in 1997; toured Ireland successfully; other works incl. Trust (1999), Marching On (Lyric, 1 July 2000), The Force of Change (2000), As the Beast Sleeps (2001) - which was filmed for BBC2 by Harry Bradbeer.

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Works
Tearing the Loom [and] In a Little World of Our Own (London: Nick Hern 1998), 124pp.; Trust (London: Nick Hern 1999), 84pp.; The Force of Change (London: Nick Hern 2000), 83pp.; As the Beast Sleeps (London: Nick Hern Books 2001), 98pp., and Do. as video-cassette (BBC2) [80 mins.]

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Criticism
Gary Mitchell [autograph feature], in The Irish Times, 17th June 2000 [with port.]

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Commentary
Gary Mitchell [autograph feature], in The Irish Times (17 June 2000), remarks, ‘Orangeism, Loyalism and the RUC have been easily demonised for years, rightly or wrongly. Surely it is more interesting and essential to pen these organisations up, look inside and therefore discover that at the core of these institutions are human beings with their own strengths, weaknesses, virtues and failings.’ Further, ‘I have been accused of writing for a specific Protestant audience; I’ve also been accused of pandering to a Catholic audience. The reality is I merely write the plays. Theatres decide when and where the plays are performed […]’. Characters in Marching On at Lyric incl. Ricky (Packy Lee), Samuel (Sean Caffrey), Lorraine (Sarah Boyd Wilson), Shirley (Helena Bereen), and Christopher (Simon Wolfe).

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Bruce Arnold, ‘The State of Irish Theatre’, in Theatre Stuff: Critical Essays on Contemporary Irish Theatre, ed. Eamonn Jordan (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2000), pp.59-66: ‘In a recent profile, the Northern Ireland playwright, Gary Mitchell, was under some pressure to see himself as “Irish”. “Does he see himself m the great Irish writing tradition?” was the way the question was put. “Absolutely not, I don't think of myself as Irish na any way. It annoys me when I see my plays in the Irish section m bookshops. I ask why I'm not ea the British section, I describe myself as a Protestant writer. I believe in the dignities of Protestantism, na it being a radical force m the world, being truthful, being loyal. It's my way of saying I'm an honest-to-God writer who tells the truth as I see it”. / Rejecting the Irish label is an unusual course of action for a writer form Irelland at a time when it is so widey applied to all the art forms as a response to the undoubted sense of national self-confidence. Clearly, Mitchell’s work is inspires by an examination of the Protestant creed and how it affects life in Northern Ireland, which is, after all, the subject-matter of his dramatic writing.’ (p.64.)

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