My heart sank; not because she was so bad but because
I couldn’t see how she could improve. — 1 February 1979
Rehearsal Diary is Brian Friel’s riveting account of the ill-fated attempt to bring the text of Faith Healer from the page to the Broadway stage for its world première. Despite the commitment of the celebrated actor James Mason (‘Eager to establish his Britishness’) and the director José Quintero (‘he’s smoking grass’) rehearsals quickly collapse into a series of tensions and irreparable clashes. Figures appearing ‘offstage’ include Seamus Heaney, Stacy Keach and Katharine Hepburn. For anyone interested in the workings of contemporary theatre or, more specifically, Brian Friel or his play that is now recognized as a masterpiece this is compulsive reading. Completely candid, it is, ultimately, a story of all that might go wrong and, unwittingly, a self-portrait of a distinctly valiant writer.
Brian Friel (1929-2015) was Ireland’s greatest playwright. The Gallery Press published Collected Plays, in five volumes, in 2016 and The Mundy Scheme earlier this year.
Publication date: 14 July 2022
Available in hardback only
This is a song a robin sang
This morning in a broken tree;
It was about the little fields
That call across the world to me.
There have been three different editions of Francis Ledwidge’s poems titled The Complete Poems. None is complete. This selection, Poems, the first book of Ledwidge’s poems published in County Meath, is based largely on the first of them published by Herbert Jenkins Ltd (London) in 1919 with introductions by Lord Dunsany and comprising Songs of the Fields(the one collection the author saw in his lifetime), Songs of Peace (the collection being printed at the time of his death) and Last Songs (a selection assembled by Dunsany, the author’s mentor and patron).
In Belgium, days or weeks before his death on 31 July 1917, Francis Ledwidge wrote these lines about the fields of County Meath in a poem called simply ‘Home’. For Seamus Heaney he ‘can be counted as a “war poet” in the company of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon’. In his Introduction to Last Songs (1918), his patron, the 18th Lord Dunsany, wrote, ‘He has left behind him verses of great beauty, simple rural lyrics that may be something of an anodyne for this stricken age. If ever an age needed beautiful little songs our age needs them; and I know few songs more peaceful or happy or better suited to soothe the scars of the mind.’
Francis Ledwidge was born in Slane, County Meath, in 1887. He worked as a road labourer and activist before joining the British Army. Famously he said, ‘I would not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing at home but passed resolutions.’
He died in action at Ypres in 1917.
Publication date: 7 August 2022
Available to pre-order
They have me as they reared me,
the women with no shadows.
Waterloo and Geneva, Dresden and Leningrad, The Milky Way and Rossnowlagh . . . Donegal man Frank McGuinness’s seventh collection, May Twenty-second, celebrates and mourns our times, alert to their secrets and their strangeness, their perils and passion, with unforgettable images. ‘The wind plays a mandolin of rainfall.’ (‘Gola’). Dancing with Goya and Fred and Ginger, soaring with Little Richard and Robert Johnson, envisioning an elegy for Lyra McKee, these poems chronicle our history and demarcate our geography, revealing our empathy and enigmas. The book displays, in its wide-ranging embrace, the flair of a virtuoso.
Frank McGuinness was born in County Donegal in 1953 and now lives in Dublin. He has written fifteen plays (including Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, Carthaginians and Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me) and twenty adaptations of European classics. His version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House won a ‘Tony’ award and his most recent play, Donegal, was staged at the Abbey Theatre. The Gallery Press has also published Booterstown, The Sea with No Ships, The Stone Jug, Dulse, In a Town of Five Thousand People and The Wedding Breakfast. Frank McGuinness is Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing in UCD which conferred on him the Ulysses Medal (2019).
Publication date: 8 August 2022
Available to pre-order