Quick-Fire Questions with Dramatist Seamus Finnegan on I Am Of Ireland

With I Am Of Ireland premiering at the Old Red Lion theatre and pub, Anthony Walker-Cook exchanged some short questions with writer Seamus Finnegan to discuss his new state of the nation play.

When did you get the idea to write I Am Of Ireland and what prompted you to do so?
I Am Of Ireland has been in development since 2016, the year that marked the 100th anniversary of the East Rising in Dublin, and in which my grandfather fought.

Which other writers (Irish or otherwise) have influenced your style?
I’m influenced by English dramatists that write ‘state of the nation plays’, such as Howard Brenton, David Edgar and Henry Granville-Barker.

What was the most recent play you saw and what do you wish you’d seen but missed?
I recently saw Congreve’s The Way of the World at the Donmar Warehouse and I wish I had seen Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, starring Martin Shaw, at the Playhouse.

You’ve worked with director Ken McClymont since 1998: what are the benefits of working with the same director for so many years and do you share similar ideas about politics, social issues, etc?
We share a trust in the honesty and integrity of each other’s work and we have a similar vision on Art in general.

Together you’ve also both worked on seven productions (and it is where you met) at the Old Red Lion pub and theatre: could you comment on this space and why you keep returning there?
When we first met Ken was Artistic Director of the ORL and I like the intimacy of the space.

What drink would you recommend people buy in the pub part of the Old Red Lion?
Anything with alcohol.

I was wondering if you could share some thoughts from your time working in Jersualem during the mid-90s.
Once James Joyce and the Israelite was produced at the Lyric Theatre in 1982, it went to the First International Festival of Jewish Theatre in Tel Aviv. Whilst there I interviewed Israeli dramatists for a book, one of whom was Miriam Kainy and with whom I went on to collaboratively write Hypatia. I was then invited to stay on as a writer in residence of Miskenot Shananim in Jerusalem, which was one of the highlights of my career.  

If you had to describe I Am Of Ireland in one word what would it be?
Fearless.

If I Am Of Ireland is trying to pose one question to the audience, what is it? And what is the answer?
It’s more an issue of the need for us all to examine our consciences, which is a difficult thing to do!

What might audiences expect when they come to I Am Of Ireland?
I’d hope powerful and exciting theatre.

Finally, state of the nation plays seem relevant world-wide currently – how does it feel to be writer with political events actively changing the fabric of the political world almost on a daily basis?
Whilst things change human questions and dilemmas have remained the same since the Greeks and Shakespeare.

I Am Of Ireland plays at the Old Red Lion until the 30th June, 2018. Our thanks to Seamus for answering our questions.

Feature photograph: Michael Robinson


Anthony Walker-Cook is a PhD candidate at UCL and is the Theatre editor for London Student. His interests include theatre adaptation, early modern drama, classical myths made modern and all things eighteenth century. For more information please contact: anthony.walker-cook.17@ucl.ac.uk

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