An accidental journey

Oliver Goldsmith once stated: “Our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” While Longford playwright Alan Flanagan did not fail, he can certainly identify with life taking an unintended direction.

Oliver Goldsmith once stated: “Our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” While Longford playwright Alan Flanagan did not fail, he can certainly identify with life taking an unintended direction.

This month, the acclaimed writer will see a play of his performed at one of the world’s largest arts festivals, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (August 3–27). What’s more, this Lanesboro native has been accepted to Goldsmiths, University of London, Masters in Screen-Writing programme, for which he was awarded a scholarship.

However, this was not the path Alan foresaw when he left his parents, Jimmy and Bernie, and his home in Lanesboro to enter the degree programme in Journalism at Dublin City University (DCU). Although he graduated the course with his degree it was a career he could never fully commit to.

“I did bits of journalism here and there, but I fell in love with creative writing when I joined the Drama Society at DCU. Creative writing is less lucrative than journalism but more suited to someone like me. I love story-telling,” said the former Lanesboro Community College student. His father, Jimmy, is principal at the school.

While creative writing may not be bringing much financial rewards for Alan as yet, it is certainly lucrative in other respects. This month his play, ‘Irreconcilable Differences’, is being performed during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at Gryphon’s Venues at the Point Hotel.

“It is a huge milestone for anyone in the arts to get to Edinburgh. I’ve been coming here for years just to experience it. To be taking part this year is just incredible,” said the 26-year-old thespian, who has previously won awards at the Irish Student Drama Awards and the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival for Best New Writing, Best Actor and the Spirit Of The Festival award for his play ‘Billy Redden’.

“The Edinburgh play, ‘Irreconcilable Differences’, is a two-person play that looks at a couple who have been twenty years together and the audience must decide which of them survives a car wreck,” said Alan, who has written six plays to date.

“I think that, yes, my plays can be a little dark. They tend to be about people who are suddenly thrust into strange situations.”

‘Irreconcilable Differences’ has already received high praise from theatre critics, among them Theatreguide London who gave it four stars.

However, theatre is not where it ends for Alan. In September he turns his attention to a Masters in Screen Writing at the prestigious Goldsmiths at the University of London. Previous graduates of the university include members of the band Blur, artist Damien Hirst, filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood and painter Lucian Freud.

“It’s my dream to become a full-time playwright and a screen-writer,” said Alan who admits to getting inspiration from the most mundane of activities, such as overhearing a conversation.

“I haven’t written anything based in Longford yet – but I think I am returning to my roots and may well do something based either in Longford or my mother’s home place, Inishbofin.”

Prior to his return to Europe a few months ago, Alan lived in Toronto, Canada, for two years. During this time he became acquainted with a group known as ‘Pandemic Theatre’. Later this year, he will return to Toronto for the premier of his play ‘Ringing In Your Ears’, which looks at a soldier blinded in war. It is being produced by Pandemic Theatre.

Influenced by writers such as David Mallet, Alan loves to “go to town on the English language”.

“I love anything that has a good control of the English language,” said Alan who has directed four of his own shows to date. He is also dipping his toes in to the waters of acting.

“Every day is different in theatre. No two shows are the same. There is always something new and interesting.”