Gabriel Byrne brings Gerard Mannix Flynn’s James X to land in New York


How It’s New York:  Gerard Mannix Flynn, the New Independent Dublin City Councilman who wrote and performs in James X, told me the piece in way is written for New York– that New Yorkers, because of the pace and progressive nature here, will pick up on the play very quickly.
How It’s Irish:  James X is based on thousands of snippets of information from documents about people who’ve been abused in Irish institutions.  Mannix Flynn has come through one himself, and splits his time between work as a visual artist, a politician, and a writer.  The show is presented by Gabriel Byrne (who directs) and Liam Neeson, who know Mannix Flynn from their time years ago at Project Arts Centre, as well as Culture Project and Mannix Flynn’s own Farcry Productions.  Like so many amazing things that have come through NYC this year, it is supported by Imagine Ireland.

I’ve done two pieces on this show– it’s having a very short run!  Just until the 18th, following its press opening tonight. One for WSJ Speakeasy, and one for Irish Examiner USA.

The courts, says Mannix Flynn, want “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  But not the honest truth.  The courts don’t have time for the honest truth, but this piece has time for the honest truth.”

This article was originally published in WSJ Speakeasy.

Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson Team Up With Gerard Mannix Flynn on ‘James X’

Actors Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson have teamed up with Dublin City Councilor and writer/artist Gerard Mannix Flynn, and with Culture Project, to present “James X.” The piece explores what years of silence and abuse can do to an individual.

In it, a man (played by the author) waits to give testimony to an Irish governmental tribunal of inquiry.  He hopes that telling the story will set him free.  The show began performances on Tuesday, and runs at Culture Project,  through Dec. 18.
The author and Byrne met at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin when they were 20. “We are both committed to works concerning society, not just entertaining it,” says Mannix Flynn, who also runs his own company, Farcry productions. “We’ve traveled different roads, but both of our skills and experience impact on this piece. Byrne is like the aircraft controller, bringing it in to land.”
Mannix Flynn, a member of the New Independent party, has been investigating issues of sexual abuse since the 1980s. “James X” spans over 40 years, in an hour and ten minutes. “I’m not telling a story of romantic Ireland, but of a person who happens to be in this room.  Inside of 20 seconds you’ll be in that room with that person,” Mannix Flynn says.
Although “James X” takes place in a theater, Mannix Flynn says it’s not a dramatization, per se. He uses the dramatic form to “bring about a traumatic truth. The story of James X is made up of thousands of snippets and thousands of files.  But it is a universal story, of a life lived.”
Accompanying the work is a lobby display called “Impact,” which portrays James X’s journey from age six until the present. The display also relates to the author’s work against child abuse in Irish institutions.  There will be several public talks about the issues in the play, including a talk with CCR (Center for Constitutional Rights) on Dec. 11.
“James X” is presented as part of Imagine Ireland, Culture Ireland’s year of Irish arts in America.
Culture Project is at 45 Bleeker Street, between Bowery and Lafayette.

And (redacted) from Irish Examiner:

Flynn says the play has been 10 years in the making. Flynn, who performs in his piece, is also a New Independent Dublin City Councillor, as well as a journalist and visual artist. His autobiographical novel, Nothing to Say (1983), is informed by 18 months at St. Joseph’s Industrial School.

Crimes of a sexual nature and crimes against children are toxic, and when you bring those events into society, one has to have regard for the sensibilities of people,” Flynn says, explaining why he presents the material this way. “It’s to bring people back into the theatre of feeling, rather than the theatre of thinking.” Rather than just dramatizing or fictionalizing the events, he considers that what he’s doing is using the forms to present the truth. “We do not attempt to make an audience out of the public. We keep the public as public. The essential component is the absolute truth.” He created the character from thousands of snippets and files, he says.

(@Riona MacMonagle)

RTÉ’s recently settled with Father Kevin Reynolds for falsely accusing him on the air of sexual abuse, but, says Flynn,

“the vast majority of those that stand accused, the Murphy reports, the Ferns report, are very clear evidence of a wholesale abuse of individuals in those institutions over long periods of time, and there was ample evidence of sexual abuse, of torture, and cruel and inhumane treatment. Any national broadcaster or newspaper can make a mistake and be sued for it. I don’t see a huge culture of people making wrongful allegations against the church.”

The conditioning of the population and the way the church operated allowed the abuses to go on for so long, he says.

“The people who knew about these abuses, the gardai, etc., were all deferential to the church. The reason the situation was contained was somewhere between civil law and canon law and criminal law, nobody was policing the situation.” 

He expects that in the next 20 years the crimes against the middle class will begin to come out.

“The church today is very different than what it was in the last 20 years. The institutionalized church is constitutionally now damaged. I don’t believe the faith is damaged.” 

He says he hasn’t jettisoned his Catholicism himself, but doesn’t necessarily practice the rituals within the church.

He told NYIA,

“I don’t know if one can practice these rituals anymore because of the contamination of the place where you were supposed to be practicing these rituals, inside the church. But there’s nothing in this that is going to turn anybody off of faith.”

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  1. I saw James X last night at 45 Bleeker.
    I would just like to thank and applaud Mannix Flynn for his work and performance.