Playwright gives voice to Irish travelers

Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:37am EDT
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By Barbara Lewis

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The stark statistics on Ireland's more than 22,000 travelers have compelled many to take up the cause of a community that tends to be marginalized and short of work.

For Irish actor and writer Michael Harding, it was not so much the social issues as the powerful life stories and musical language that drew him in to write first a book and now a critically acclaimed play, "The Tinker's Curse."

Fittingly enough, after shows in Dublin, Harding is taking his one-man narration about the joys and sorrows of a traditionally nomadic people of Irish origin who can be found across Ireland and Britain.

Following a performance in Portlaoise in the center of Ireland on April 15 that received standing ovations, he crosses to Galway Town Hall on April 29 in the west and then will head north to Navan on May 6.

Harding was introduced to the traveling community, he said, "by someone who trusted me" and went on to spend hours and hours making recordings of travelers' tales.

"I was not interested in social issues. I was interested in stories about love and death and children and babies, the afterlife, all that. We would sit there of an afternoon in somebody's trailer and record and record and record," Harding told Reuters.

"I always promised them at some point I might write a play," said Harding, who has had a long career in acting and writing, including for Dublin's Abbey Theater, the national theater of Ireland.

The plot of The Tinker's Curse is mostly invented, but its essence is true, down to the heartbroken words of a bereaved mother.   Continued...