Graham J. Reid

Life
1945- [var. J. Graham]; b. Belfast, of Protestant working-class parents; left school at 15; m. at 20; British Army and other jobs; returned to education at 26, and grad. QUB 1976; taught history in schools, and turned to full-time writing, 1980; first plays The Death of Humpty Dumpty (Abbey, 6 Sept. 1979), in which a schoolteacher who witnesses a sectarian killing is tracked and shot by paramilitaries, but survives in a physically and sexually humiliated condition, reeking emotional vengeance on his family until he is suffocated by his son David; The Closed Door (Peacock, 28 April 1980), set in a paramilitary shebeen; The Hidden Curriculum (1982) and Remembrance (1984) [var. 1985], dealing with working-class hardship; The Callers (1985); followed by Billy: Three Plays for Television (1982-87), an account of a working-class Belfast Protestant family’s response when the youngest son falls in love with a Catholic nurse; produced by BBC NI with career-launching role for Kenneth Branagh as Billy (Too Late to Talk to Billy, 1982; A Matter of Choice for Billy, 1983; A Coming to Terms for Billy, 1984), for television, dealing with familial pressures amid violent social conflict; proved screen-vehicle for Kenneth Branagh as Billy; Samuel Beckett Award, 1984; Ties of Blood (1985), for television, deals with the army and its impact on civilians; appointed QUB Writer-in-Residence and Stranmillis College; You, Me and Marley (1992) dealing with the rejection of a Belfast teenager by the IRA when he tries to join in to avenge the killing of his brothers by the army and by loyalists; Blood of the Lamb [q.d.], filmed by BBC2 in Belfast, May 1996; Dying for a Mother, BBC radio play, 2001. DIW FDA OCIL

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Works
The Death of Humpty Dumpty (Dublin: Writers’ Co-Op 1980); The Closed Door (Co-Op 1980); Plays incl. Too Late to Talk to Billy; Dorothy; The Hidden Curriculum (Co-Op 1982); Billy: Three Plays for Television (London: Faber & Faber 1984); Remembrance (Faber 1985); Ties of Blood (London: Faber & Faber 1986); also ‘Comings and Goings’, Threshold, No. 35 (Winter 1984/85), pp.21-25.

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Criticism
D. E. S. Maxwell, A Critical History of Modern Irish Drama 1891-1980 (Cambridge UP 1984), pp.185-86; P. Campbell, ‘Graham Reid - Professional’, in The Linen Hall Review, 1, 2 (Summer 1984), pp.4-7; Lynda Henderson, ‘The Green Shoot’: Transcendence and Imagination in contemporary Ulster Drama’, in Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley, eds., Across the Roaring Hill: The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland (Belfast: Blackstaff 1985), pp.196-217 [chiefly 200-215]; E. Fitzgibbon, ‘All Change: Contemporary Fashions in the Irish Theatre’, in M Sekine, ed. Irish Writers and the Theatre (Gerrards Cross 1986), pp.35-37; M. Etherton, Contemporary Irish Dramatists (Macmillan 1989), pp.33-38; Elmer Andrews, ‘A Failure of Realism, ‘Review of Ties of Blood, in Honest Ulsterman, 83 [q.d.], p.73.

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Commentary
Nina Witoszeck
& Patrick Sheeran, ‘The Tradition of Vernacular Hatred’, in Geert Lernout, ed., The Crows Behind the Plough: History and Violence in Anglo-Irish Poetry and Drama [Costerus Ser. Vol. 79] (Amsterdam: Rodopi 1991), pp.11-27: ‘One of the most vicious abuse in modern Irish drama is to be found in John Reid’s The Death of Humpty Dumpty. Here Willie, the hospital orderly, bullies George who is crippled from his neck down: ‘[...] the point is that you have to lie there and lust listen to whatever I want to say ... I’m the boss around here, see? You’re just lucky you’re immune from a good kick in the goolies. (Starts washing George’s face.) Being a teacher you’ll want the face washed before your arse. (J. Graham Reid [sic], The Death of Humpty Dumpty, Co-Op Books, p.20.)

Jane Coyle, ‘Jane Coyle talks to Graham Reid’ (The Irish Times, 29 Aug. 1995) [on new play, Lengthening Shadows, Lyric Belfast]; four early plays from Humpty Dumpty, The Closed Door (1980), The Hidden Curriculum (1982), Callers (1983); early rejections by Lyric ‘did me a favour’; learned craft at Abbey along with Bernard Farrell and F. McGuinness; Remembrance commissioned by Lyric, 1980s; new play Lengthening Shadows, commissioned by Point Field Theatre Co., fnd. Martin Lynch; dir. Robin Midgley; three generations of Protestant family; beginning with gf. whose two sons die in troubles, and ending a gd. with a wider perspective; combines intimate psychological portrait with history of N. Ireland; also TV play, You, Me and Marley (1992); current premier also Love (West Yorkshire Playhouse); Hidden Curriculum revived Lyric (1994); Life after Life (BBC NI), deals with a lifer released from prison; speaks of gathering evidence of ‘dirty war’; ‘the survivor, those who have lost loved ones and those who killed them - have to go on living together. That’s the reality.’

Paul Nolan, review of You, Me and Marley, Fortnight (Nov. 1992); deals with a teenager in west Belfast whose circumstances include an older brother killed by the army, another by the loyalists; his failure to be accepted by the IRA, a depressed mother and a sister who can’t get over two abortions. Two priests from outside the community respond when the IRA-men rush out of a community meeting to tackle joyriders - the general theme of the play - one saying to the other, ‘If those thugs who were in here beat the tripe out of those thugs who were out there and the RUC thugs in turn beat the tripe out of both set of thugs, will you lose any sleep?’; ‘Get the picture?’,.

Eddie Holt, TV review The Precious Blood, Irish Times, 15 June 1996, Weekend, p.5; The Precious Blood, with Amanda Burton as Rosie Willis, a Catholic whose protestant husband was murdered by paras 12 years earlier; also Kevin McNally as Billy McVea, former para[-military], now born-again Christian; Rosie thinks the IRA killed her husband, and her son consequently hates Catholics; Billy runs boxing establishment; it turns out that Billy is the murderer; Billy comes to believe that he must make atonement; Holt finds Graham fully knowing about the difficulties of mixing stereotype and characterisation, but also points out that the play is leaves the Northern Ireland justice establishment ‘suspiciously unblemished’.

[Q.a.,] Irish Times, 25 Nov. 2000, review of Dying for a Mother, BBC Radio play, concerns Judith Wilson, an RUC woman policeman (WPC) involved in riot control whose real mother is the mother of a republican prisoner who joins the hunger strike, as she finds out the day Bobby Sands dies; quotes, ‘Finding out who my real mother is was a shock. So was the death of Bobby Sands. I wasn’t on duty the day he died but I was on the day of his funeral. I looked at all those thousands of people and I thought, “How can we have shared this tiny little country for so long, and have known so little about each other?”’

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, selects The Death of Humpty Dumpty [1204-07]; Richard Kearney notes transitional paradigms in the revision of unionist culture (Transitions, 1980), 633n; less puckish than Stewart Parker, [his plays develop the standpoint] of the bystander, the ‘innocent’ onlooker caught up in violence; The glib Slobber in The Closed Door (1980) lives dangerously around the rackets of Belfast political gangs; beaten, stabbed, blinded, he dies slowly outside the house of a friend too scared to help, who tries to redeem himself by lies humiliatingly exposed; in a programme note to The Death of Humpty-Dumpty (1979), Reid remarks upon the experience of Belfast hospitals ...: There was often the question “Why me? I am innocent?” The protagonist is George Samson, schoolteacher, genial father, vain, cautious philanderer; shot to prevent bearing witness to a terrorist killing, he is paralysed from the neck down; set in his hospital ward, dissolves to his ruinous visits home and his former life; records physical indignities of his condition, deteriorating will, embittered tyranny over family; Gerry Doyle, a hospital friend, also crippled, defies self-pity by harsh raillery and fortitude, but is killed in an accident after his discharge; his voice opens and closes the play; George’s son Gerry smothers him in his bed: ‘We can’t take you home ... But I can’t leave you here’. Careful domesticity shattered by hoodlum politics [revealing] pretences, weaknesses, etc.; Reid’s television work explores private insecurities, bordered by public upheaval, associated as metaphors of each other [Christopher Murray, ed.], 1139-40; BIOG, 1306 [as above].

D. E. S. Maxwell, Modern Irish Drama (Cambridge UP 1984), bibl. lists only The Death of Humpty-Dumpty (Dublin: Co-Op Books 1980).

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