Speaker 0 00:00:03 <inaudible>
Speaker 1 00:00:22 How you doing? I'm Doug <inaudible> and Joel, listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. We all come from somewhere else. Subscribe to [email protected]
My guest today is Janet Bian, the daughter of Brian and the niece of Brendan Janet's play Brendan at the Chelsea, started Adrian Dunbar and taught Dublin Belfast and New York while her one woman show, why shouldn't I go with delighting audiences up and down the country until COVID struck. I talked to her about her writing and growing up as a beam, but first I want to know how Brendan at the Chelsea came about, by the way, please note that this interview does contain adult language. And the name that we're searching for is Lee hall. Meanwhile, back at Brendan at the Chelsea,
Speaker 2 00:01:06 I, because when you're the relative of somebody famous like that, you're often asked, Oh, do you know who could do this? Do you know who could do that? And I had been in my house, um, very much stuck in my house because we had a severely autistic son for many well, you getting on for 10 years at that point. And I'd had a couple of theater people come round and say, Oh, could we talk to you about your autistic son? And then they've made the invite me to the showing of the wonderful version of spoonfed Steinberg they were doing. And let's do face Steinberg as a, as a, a very nice play about an autistic boy. Sorry, isn't it. Um, and it's, it's not Lee Miller. It's not lead childhood. It's definitely somebody. Who's a great, great writer. And I'm sorry, I can't remember his name, but I got a post.
Speaker 2 00:02:08 So when somebody phoned up and said, Oh, I've been given your name by Sonia Friedman, who is the Western producer and the sister of a very, very, very dear friend of mine, Maria Friedman, um, when they, they phoned up and said, could you do you know anybody who could write a version for the stage of Brenton beans, New York and some rage Rose up inside me? And I just said, yes, I could. And he said, Oh fine. Well, if I drop the book round, can you do me a treatment? So I went to the internet and Googled to treatment because what that was, um, and I wrote a treatment and he seemed happy with that. And, uh, we went ahead and it was a, kind of a, it was a very sort of sweet, respectful trot through the great marvelous talent of Brendan BN. But, um, as my friend, Paul Bradley said, there's a character missing here, which was the drink.
Speaker 2 00:03:16 And I said, Oh, no, I wouldn't want to cause any offenses enough of that trouble in our family as is. Um, and it went through various hands and various people looked at it and um, somebody said, you know, I am willing to go ahead with this, but you have got to make it much tougher. And I thought, okay. So I wrote a version which had one scene in the Chelsea hotel and I took it to him and he said, yeah, you've got to set the whole play in the Chelsea hotel. And I said, well, no, no, no, that could, that's completely impossible. I said, I'll tell you what, I'll go away for a month and try. So I went away for a month and tried, and course he was completely right. Uh, because it just, it, it, it made it much easier to stage and it compressed the time and the action in a way that was very useful for the drama.
Speaker 3 00:04:09 When you say about the rage that Rose up in you, was that being protective of your family's legacy as it were
Speaker 2 00:04:17 Sick and tired of other people getting on with their lives. And I was just stuck at home thinking, when do I ever, when do I ever escape? When does this extraordinarily tough life ever end? I mean, I'm writing a novel at the moment and I want to talk in the novel in a way that is, you know, palatable to people. And I'm not, I don't want to bash them around the head with them, but to try and explain what it's like being a mother of a very severely disabled child. Um, anyway, that's a digression, that's a different thing, but, but, but that, that was where the rage came from. I just, uh, I was sick of helping other people have fabulous careers and not have a fabulous career of my own. So, you know,
Speaker 3 00:05:05 Uh let's let's, um, you, you, you, uh, you, you, did you start off as an actress then and then move into writing. Is that how your career windows? Right.
Speaker 2 00:05:21 I started off as an actress. And then, um, because I just got to say, our son is great now he's, he doesn't live with us anymore. And he's getting on to the degree that he can with his life. And it's a real success story, but that came out of an awful lot of legal battles I did because I was an actress and I acted for many years, and then I had children and that became harder anyway. And then our son was diagnosed and it became impossible because really nobody could look after him, but me, my husband was working away a lot. He's a TV director and nearly every job he got seemed to be in either Africa or America or Shropshire or some somewhere that wasn't, you know, Hamdi for stoke Newington anyway. So, uh, um, and it really kind of boiled down to just me and I had to, uh, we have another son, Laurie, who is three years younger than my son. So I have my hands full at home. It wasn't possible to act it wasn't possible to work outside the house. So I began to write,
Speaker 3 00:06:30 But you come from a family of writers. Um, I mean, we've mentioned obviously, um, Brendan and your father, uh, Brian, uh, both of whom, uh, wrote in particular for an improv exam with the station and so forth and looking at, um, uh, looking at your, your, your siblings as well as quite a lot of writing in the family. Um, so was, was, was that an easy thing to do or was, or was that made more daunting by the fact that there's, there's a family of writers that you come from,
Speaker 2 00:06:55 It was made more daunting because you felt that you were going to get compared. Um, but then in the end, I just thought, uh, you know, and even amiable friends when I started writings at OSSE, you're just cashing in on the family name. Um, thank God for the family name, because I don't suppose my play would have had it. Wasn't easy getting it on, not by any means. It's never easy getting any play on, I don't think. But, um, it had a much, much better chance because of that subject matter.
Speaker 3 00:07:28 Does that, does that mean that people tend to treat you with a certain regard or indeed suspicion with regards to your own work?
Speaker 2 00:07:37 Yes. I think, I think when I wrote Brendan at the Chelsea, there were that I remember somebody saying, because it did, it did quote, um, Brendan to an extent and tell you the stack to the extent 7% bled for what, just so I could refute these accusations. So yeah, obviously it's an issue, isn't it it's an issue. Um, but, uh, people did think, you know, where those, where those lines Brendan or where they mine and I, that, of course it's a huge compliment because they couldn't tell the difference. So that was rather rather nice, um, that I remember when I was a very young, far too young to be out on my own, really. I think I was about 14 and I was in Dublin and, uh, I was in Don Hughes and it started, you know, saying, Oh, well, Brendan smack, just rounded on me and said, it's the likes of you fucking VMs that have given an Irish reputation that we've got, you know, fall off back to wherever, you know, um, stuff like that, that, and an awful lot of people saying to me, well, what's your genius? Well, was he just a as if there was sort of nothing in between these two things? Uh, so it's always been kind of an issue and I, because I think more than anything else because of dad being a writer and my relationship with my dad, I think I was kind of afraid of, I don't know, stepping on his toes or something like that. I often think I would never have managed to write the play if it hadn't been for the fact that he died, say, isn't it?
Speaker 4 00:09:31 No, I think it's, it's, it's something that people often find is that psych is they find themselves looking over their shoulder at their, uh, their parents. And it's only afterwards that you find
Speaker 2 00:09:40 Yourself out of a psychological freedom.
Speaker 4 00:09:42 Yes. And that's, that's not, that's no insult to their memory. It's just, it's just how it, how it is. Um, we do overcautious teenager then at 14 going around Dublin saying, look, yeah,
Speaker 2 00:09:54 It depends what you mean by coach. And the answer is yes. In any case. Yes. Um, yeah, I thought I was a little grown up and they then took me many, many years and a lot of, uh, psychological support to actually grow up. But, uh, yeah.
Speaker 4 00:10:16 How many siblings do you have?
Speaker 2 00:10:18 Um, I have two sisters and a half sister and a half brother.
Speaker 4 00:10:25 And you, uh, you were raised in London? Yes. Yes. And whereabouts,
Speaker 2 00:10:31 Uh, where I was born in my grandparents' communist lodging house in Kennington park road. And we moved from there when I was about six months old to a prefab in, um, Herne Hill, which is beautifully detailed in my sister's story, started on the mantle piece, which is part of the anthology of the common people, common people. Um, uh, and then we, when, when that was demolished, like my father and mother kept being shown these properties, council properties that, um, uh, they didn't think were up to snuff. And my father being my father stole down to the council offices and said, let me see the file. And they reductively, uh, were forced part for this file, which had slum tenants stamped across the front. So as a result of that interview, we ended up with quite a nice house, uh, in, um, crown point in West Norwood, which I have to say we probably didn't leave in a fantastic condition. And I don't think we probably finished paying the rent before we left either. And then we moved down to a houseboat in Shoreham by sea, but I would, I would have been about 15 by then, I think.
Speaker 4 00:11:59 And you say it was, you were raised in your, your, your, your, your grandparents, communist household. And what was, what was that like? Was that all right? You are about, um, but your, your, your dad was quite the union activist and so forth. I mean, was it a politically busy family?
Speaker 2 00:12:14 Oh, ridiculously crazy. Um, very interesting. If I discovered a kind of a long distance, I don't know what it'd be some kind of a second cousin, 55 removed up in Staffordshire, um, who, um, is a Furlong and Furlong was the name of my grandmother's first husband. And, um, he's dug out Brendan's special branch file, which is now, she's now, um, uh, released to public record. And he sent me a copy and there was a letter from my uncles <inaudible> to Brendan. And I think he was in Mount joy at the time. Um, talking about, I think talking about the amnesty, talking about the fact that the Brendan could sign a letter, announcing his IRA activities, and then he would be released and his brother, Sean, advising him to do that. Um, but there's lots of Shaun being followed around the country because he was a co in the communist party.
Speaker 2 00:13:20 Um, there are letters in there about my father, um, being, you know, his union activities and everything. And interestingly, uh, Sean has the same address as his Kennington park road address. So I think what my grandparents who were my grandfather was from Yorkshire and my grandmother was from Lancashire and they were in the communist party. And I think that their, their house in Cajun part road was renowned as a place that if you were a communist from wherever in the world, you could fetch up that they might provide you with a bedroom. So, uh, uh, so yeah, it was a, it was fantastically political part, a family, ridiculous, um, from both sides, not just, not just the beams, not just the lungs, but my, my, my mother's family as well.
Speaker 4 00:14:08 And has that sense of political activism carried on into you? Do you think
Speaker 2 00:14:13 It's kind of, um, no, I, I, I'm not politically active. I am a member of the labor party. It put me off extreme left wing politics because the effect on me as a child was a little bit, I suppose, like, um, I was think of it as being what it must be like to be the child of a Jehovah's witness, that she is constantly not coming first. I spent an awful lot of my early life looking at the backs of people's knees on variety of marches up to Trafalgar square. Anyway, I, you know, I, I don't, I didn't feel that I benefited very much. And then now really, uh, it's kind of sad. I mean, it was another thing and they, and they, um, and the files that I was reading this kind of fervent belief in Russia and what was going on in Russia and the, and the heartbreak when they discovered that actually it wasn't sort of anticommunist propaganda.
Speaker 2 00:15:25 It was true. Things were not great over there. Um, uh, and, and they came out of that. My father was, I think he was expelled from the communist party or that he did go all over the world as a communist official. Um, and I think when he came back, he kind of talked about what he'd seen, which really hard, kind of shocked him as a communist official. They were staying in all the best hotels and, um, people who walk around the streets with no shoes on. I think he was, he was really shocked and horrified. And I don't think that the British communist party wanted to hear that particularly. Um, so he was expelled from that, wherever he went, he, he caused sort of ferment and, you know, he was, he was, he was a great thinker and he was a great speaker and he was a great rabble rouser and, and political organizations like any other organization. Some people want to be top dog. And my father had kind of a natural right to be top dog, but I don't think that was what people particularly wanted.
Speaker 1 00:16:39 <inaudible>, you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. We all come from somewhere else, subscribe to [email protected]
I asked my guests, Janet Bian, what effects her unconventional childhood had on her at the time.
Speaker 2 00:17:02 We were a couple of after explain that my, my, I have, my third sister is 10 years younger than me. So she wasn't around when I was a little girl. Um, uh, we were a couple of freaks. You know, if, if people said to us in the playground, you're going to vote Labour or conservative, we'd say, you know, what, what, six, six year olds don't have votes, do they? But there's the conversations that were had, um, we'd say, no, we're gonna vote conserve. Are we gonna vote to communist? And if they said, are you a Catholic or a Protestant? We'd say we're atheists. And, uh, we were bullied, you know, remorselessly, um, unsurprisingly I to do the friends,
Speaker 5 00:17:50 I won't name them now, but we hold a club with me in my culture yet. And then they threw me out of my club, even though it was happening. I never really got over that. But no, I mean, I think, I think also that kind of feeling of not knowing where you belong, because you're S you're not Irish enough to be Irish in Ireland, and you're not English enough to be English in England. And of course there were, there were lots of, um, lots of anti IRA sentiment around at the time, lots of, lots of IRA activity. So it was a hard, it was hard to be bought off the Irish community.
Speaker 3 00:18:32 That's one of the things that the, the, the, the podcast itself tends to focus in on, which is this notion, it's why it's called the plastic podcasts, um, which is this notion that, um, of authenticity of that, that, that sense that you're not considered authentically English and not consented considered authentically Irish. And it's a, it's a difficult balance to strike, um, over the course of over the course of life. How, how, how, how have you found it? How have you found that, that, that, that sense, or as authenticity being something that you find in other ways?
Speaker 5 00:19:06 Um, I mean, it was, it was kind of, um, pointed up by the fact that I was trying to have an acting career because I would see him for lots of Irish parts, and then they would be kind of Irish, but conversely, I would not get seen for English parts because they thought I was Irish. I remember once going for an advert of other center, wonderful casting lady called Ross Hubbard, who is Irish itself. And as I was going in for this advert, she just went Irish, I thought, okay. So I went in and did my own rejects, and it was through a Marjorie and called batty claw light. And, um, uh, so I, I got the, I got the gig for battery call light, and it went over to, uh, that I had no idea that I was supposed to keep up this fiction too out. So, uh, I was in the hotel in Dublin with the producer with a lovely guy called Paul Bradley, who is now a great friend, has been very great friends since that time. He's an actor, wonderful actor. And, uh, we were chatting away and the producer said, Oh, it's a 42 18 when you're in a very foreign Irish. And now you're in Dublin. You're also very forthcoming.
Speaker 5 00:20:35 So my advertisement for Patti glow light ended up being an English woman thinking it was Harvard, a som Scott. So, Oh, another thing I remember, I remember I was working up in the, um, the lyric in Belfast. When was it in my thought been in my twenties and I got an audition at the Abbey and Tomas, it was the, uh, director at the Abbey at the time. And I did my audition piece and he said, uh, what part of Ireland are you from? And I said, I'm not I'm from London. And he said, Oh, well, we would never employ you before. One of our own people, I was too proud to say, look, hang on a minute, Brendan Vivian's slaves, which probably would have helped. So I just slunk away
Speaker 3 00:21:29 When you were writing, um, Brendan at the Chelsea, I was reading a review of it. And, uh, and, uh, when he was in New York and, uh, somebody said there was only one mention of the, um, IRA activity. And so, well, there's a deliberate decision on your part to keep that to one side, or did it just not fit in with the story you were trying to tell?
Speaker 5 00:21:47 Um, one of the most important things that happened to my play was that I, uh, I got a workshop three-day workshop at the national theater and Adrian Dunbar was cast as Brandon in the world. And then went on, came out to my house, the following day with a cake and said, I want to do your play. And we developed the play, um, over the next couple of years and put it. And we were the people that put it on at the Riverside, in Hammersmith, uh, along with Roslyn Scanlon. And, um, he didn't feel that. Yeah. And then this is awful because I'm like killing this kind of, really sort of central myth about Brendan being that he didn't feel that the IRA activities really amounted to much. And when you look at the evidence, he wasn't, he wasn't a classic IRA man, but he was thrown out of the IRA when he was a young man.
Speaker 5 00:22:51 I think he was thrown out twice. And when he went to, uh, Liverpool to, um, set the bomb that altered in him being imprisoned, he was caught or she was caught straight away, you know? So he wasn't any kind of like an expert at this sort of thing. Just sort of blown himself up. He wasn't going on IRA borders. I think he was going in order to, to me, this is just a personal opinion, is he, he was going in order to show the IRA. Blokes who've thrown him out, but he was a proper IRA bloat, and they shouldn't have thrown him up, but he got thrown off because they didn't, they didn't like messing around. They were proper paramilitary organization and they wanted people to be disciplined. And, uh, you know, uh, he wasn't, he was, he was impossible to discipline and it was to him to discipline himself. So, um, so we didn't put it in, cause I, it took to me, to me, it's a play more than anything else. It's applied as a play about fame and the effects of fame on somebody who, for some reason craved it in an unhealthy way. And, and about alcohol it's about alcohol.
Speaker 6 00:24:12 Was this your first play And w w when you were, when you were, when you were writing it, I mean, psych, did it start off as one thing and become another? So when you, when you, when you were starting it to, do you recall what you thought you were going to be writing about?
Speaker 5 00:24:33 Well, of course at first I was trying to write an adaptation of Brendan beans, New York, which proved inartfully impossible. So I thought I would incorporate, um, I, to some, some nice stories out of that. And then, uh, I would use some of the lovely he's lovely collection of short stories and newspaper articles. And I thought I'd do some of the bits out of that. So it was somebody described it as an evening of Patty Whakarae, which I think would be fair enough. I think that's what it was, but, uh, yeah, so very much, so, very much so I didn't want to tall too. I mean, there's been so much kind of bad feeling between those brothers, you know, the political matters and I think more than anything else over it, all desire to be the one, the one that Kathleen thought, some show Shaun out of, um, uh, I didn't, he really didn't want to delve into all of that. And I spent an awful lot of time when I was writing that book crying, which is funny looking back, but I, because there was so much kind of pain in that family, and I guess it was, it was really the instinct. It was the pain trying to, you know, so my pain, their pain, any bloody pen,
Speaker 6 00:25:54 I was going to ask you if there was an element of exorcism for you as well.
Speaker 5 00:25:57 Yes, very much so. Very much so. Yeah. Writing is fabulous for that. Okay.
Speaker 6 00:26:12 You all listening to the plastic podcasts? We all come from somewhere else. This is the section where I ask one of my guests to hoist onto the plastic pedestal, a member of the diaspora of personal or cultural significance this week, patio kief talks about George Bernard Shaw for practical reasons. When I trained as an actor and I haven't got into it, I decided what I wanted to do, really. I didn't want to do anything that wasn't either, uh, uh, Irish or political. Uh, and after a while it dawned on me that the show would people Irish, unpolitical. I also felt that I knew something about him having been brought up in Dublin on fields that, you know, you, you feel that, you know, the spirits of people like show and seeing, and, uh, uh, Casey, Becca, Oscar Wilde, and that they're, that they're around all the time.
Speaker 6 00:27:13 But what drew me to show was, um, his wit and his politics, particularly not particularly his work, uh, because I wasn't all that familiar with many of his plays to begin with, but, uh, what I felt and what I discovered in doing my research that has the most, most extraordinary childhood, uh, I mean, he lived the first 20 years in Dublin and, uh, he, um, it was amazing that he managed to preserve his son because insanity and alcoholism were predominant on both sides of his family, both his mother's and his father's side. Um, and the fact that he probably went over those and, uh, romaine and, uh, continued to be, as I think optimistic about the future and about life in general. Um, that fascinated me. I mean, I can't compare my, I, um, um, uh, of the feminine experience show shows how many experience, the fact that that's somehow drove him, um, fascinated me.
Speaker 6 00:28:24 I loved his wit, uh, because he is one of the cleverest. They say, no, if it doesn't Shakespeare is bound to be on their Oscar Wilde or bird show, and it often is show. And some of them, some of the, some of the, the, uh, uh, the one about, uh, about the, uh, the poet who was complaining about death, having a pretty much recognition, he said that he to show thoughts have been told about the world, but I'm playing to show him, you know, he said, there's a conspiracy of silence about my work and show how fed up with hearing him say this all the time advice. I think what you should do, that is fun. That is what I show that he wouldn't have to keep complaining, but it was also told about Oscar Wilde, but the fact that the, uh, the shows, which, uh, is, uh, Oh, great.
Speaker 6 00:29:19 Also I find his, his humanity, his decency. I mean, he was absolutely ahead of his time when it came to, um, uh, the acknowledgement of, um, um, homosexual, for instance, he was absolutely ahead of his time. There, he was one of the very few, uh, defenders of, um, I'm Oscar Wilde. And in fact, when Oscar one was, as we say, disgraced, and his name wasn't mentioned in polite society. And then as a drama critic continued to refer to him in his drama criticism, he would often say things like, ah, but in the hands of an Oscar Wilde, we would have something much better here. So he kept mentioning and comparing, uh, unfavorably the current crop of, uh, their rights, uh, to, um, the gold standard of Oscar Wilde. He was, but he was in prison and buddy was industry because it was good for him.
Speaker 6 00:30:21 I liked that. I liked the fact that he would take up causes, um, regardless of the, the possibility of success. He was, he was interested in the right test of a cause rather than it, rather than it's like the outcome, you know, he wasn't one for, uh, for triangulation or for going in the middle way or the third way he was, he was sure about what the, what he believed for free on it. And that's pretty patio key fair. And if you want to hear more of my interview with Patty, why don't check it out on www.plasticpodcasts.com. Now back to Janet BN. And I ask after the success of Brian at the Chelsea, what was her next step as a writer?
Speaker 5 00:31:05 Well, my next step was a writer was to get a terrible dose of, I think, what they call second album syndrome. And I just starting things and not being able to finish them and just being really kind of,
Speaker 5 00:31:21 I don't know, just, I dunno, just sort of sheepish about it really. Um, so I didn't really get, I got an awful lot of things started, but I didn't really, it, it didn't get much finished. Didn't get anything finished, to be honest until I had written the play about when I lived in Waltham stove, when, when Finn, um, our first child was very young, we live next door to this, uh, Irish couple. And the woman, when you met her in the street, she was very, very, she could barely speak. She was at such a bad stomach, and then she shut her front door and I would hear her getting louder and louder and louder and very uncomplimentary about all sorts of things. And one of the things she was uncomplimentary about was me shouting. She thinks she's all fuck in English, blah, blah, blah. So anyway, I wrote a play about this and the play that I wrote, um, had me unit and I was, I was the sympathetic hard done by one in the play and it be to play and they all say, Oh, I like the problem next door, but we never liked me.
Speaker 5 00:32:44 And I thought, well, I'll extract this woman that everybody likes. And I wrote a monologue about her and three, one of the, uh, very involved in the word Fest down there. And one of the first things we were doing was a kind of a play reading session, um, uh, sort of mid day on market days in Shaun, by sea, which is very well attended and very well loved. And like, I read this monologue and I got my very, very old dear friend, Jess, who'd been in, I've been in a feminist theater company with <inaudible> many years before I said, do you want to, she was directing men. I said, do you want to come down and have a listen? And she came down and she had a lesson and she said, yeah, you know, we could, we could make something of that. So I wrote another character, um, and we put that on in the counting fringe.
Speaker 5 00:33:40 Um, people really liked that this is in 2016, right? Like that. And, um, so we thought, well, should we get, try and get a bit of arts council money? So we got a bit of arts council money and we got the necessary crowdfunding to match it. Um, and I must say people got just amazing the way they stumped up for that lesson. And, um, we got the arts council money and was not a little thing. And the word Fest in 2019, which is now called, why shouldn't I go, which is three email characters and all Irish, all ending up in England for different reasons. And we did a word fast and people loved it. Then we did it at the Camden Irish center and really loved it. And we did a new schapira center and they dusted on it and we would have been doing it. And they brightened fringe in the may that has just gone. But of course, you know, the rest is history as they say,
Speaker 4 00:34:48 The, the three characters. Uh, so one of them was, was based upon your, your next door neighbor in Walthamstow. Yes. Yep. And the other two characters,
Speaker 5 00:34:59 The other two characters, one of them was a lady, um, who I taught, um, creative writing at Hammersmith Irish center. And she was one of the students there. Um, and really it's the, it's the story that she told me, which is I find, I tried very hard to find, to, to say, was it all right to do this? But I have to say, I managed to find her, but her story was so astonishing. She just ran into the class one night with her hair, sort of her eyes blazing and her hair sticking out and said, I've got a, I've done, I've written something or written something I'm going to read it to you. And she told us this story, which was a true story, which was, and the way she told it, it's like a lot of people with had very, very traumatic events in their life.
Speaker 5 00:35:47 The way she told it was she she'd got a very writerly style and it was terribly polite and very nicely put. But the fact is in the story, but Doug, George droppingly, shocking. Um, and, uh, so I wrote that she wasn't very hard to write because she was, you know, the character was kind of given to me by this woman. Um, the third one completely invented the third one is the Northern Irish Protestant, because I wanted in a Northern Irish, uh, character. And I wanted to say something about the evangelical church, because to me, it is one of the great, great evils extent on the earth today. You know, they are propping up Donald Trump. They are, they are peddling stuff to me, which is just, I mean, I'm not all of them. And I I'm, no, I'm no expert, I'm no expert. Um, I just, I have a friend who was a church of England vicar and his sister said to me, one day, she said, they're rad nasty bunch. And I thought, well, you should know. So anyway, I slightly got after him in this story though. But th but the wonderful thing is when you make things up and you, you put the show on and people come up to you and say, yeah, that happened to me. And you think, Oh, right. Oh, good. Okay. So I may have made it up, but it's, it's actually something that is true in life
Speaker 4 00:37:25 And were all three characters, um, or all three stories engaged with religion. And why was that?
Speaker 5 00:37:33 Because I think that the church has done terrible. It's done amazing, amazing go. And I'm sure at the moment, there's all sorts of churches doing fabulous stuff for all sorts of people, but it's also done incredible amounts of home and, um, especially to women in Ireland. And it's not just, it's not just a minute hour now, is it? And I'm not, it's not just, I dunno, it's not just sort of fam uh, it's fundamentalism in all its forms. It's just hacking away at all the stuff. Women have clawed their way out of over well, you know, centuries now. And they're just being tucked back in under this pile of patriarchal. Uh don't like it.
Speaker 4 00:38:25 And is that something that you feel about all kinds of fundamentalism? It's all I say, whether it's political or religious, or is it, is it specifically religious that the, the, the, the consider
Speaker 3 00:38:36 Has been more endemic
Speaker 5 00:38:39 Fundamentalism generally is not a, not, not a sensible thing, isn't it? I don't think because everything is a little bit, a little bit gray, a little bit, this little bit that, you know what I mean? And I think this is the problem with, uh, many aspects of life, but especially in politics, is that people, because it's this competition basically isn't it. And they have to, they will, instead of doing even think that even some of them, some of them might even be capable of having a sensible thought, but they won't act on the sensible thought their laptop, the, the thing that's going to win. And, uh, the simple message, you know, what was it about Brexit, Brexit, dunk,
Speaker 3 00:39:30 The controls as followed by get it done? Yeah. It's three is just to take it down to three words.
Speaker 5 00:39:36 Exactly.
Speaker 3 00:39:40 Yeah. Give me, give people a mantra. Um, and yet you come from, uh, going back to this, you coming from a very sort, like a fundamentalist background, to a certain extent with your, um, with your parents being heavily involved with the communist party and so on
Speaker 5 00:39:58 Background for you the other way, but exactly, exactly. These people spent years and years and years of their lives going, it's this it's, this it's, this it's this it's, I'm going to stand on the corner of the street and I'm going to sell this daily worker to 10 people, whether they want it or not. And I'm going to spend years that I could have been at university, or I could have been making some money. I could have been having nice holidays. I could have been paying a little bit more attention to my children. I'm going to plow them all into this, like one set of beliefs, because they must be true. I had a friend, um, he sort of found that I mentioned that he was a member of medicine. And I remember, you know, having grown up with this, sitting in a room with him in my twenties and listening to him that salute positivity was that she came out with this string of stuff about, you know, the way the world is apparently organized. And just thinking again, he was, he was, he met when we got married. Um, he bought us the entire communist manifesto. And what's that thing you give at the end of the Bible, the Apocrypha, yes. The whole thing sat in our basement rotting for 10 years.
Speaker 3 00:41:20 Do you envy that certainty?
Speaker 5 00:41:25 No, I don't. I don't. I think it's stupid. Um, I, I actually, I actually, the fact that life is so random thoughts, that the only thing, the only logic theory is, is the natural logic. You know, that we all seem very well, not be, not me at all, but, um, people are so happy to ignore. They're so happy to burn down bloody Amazon rain forest. When you know, this is going to lead to terrible husband and is leading Harrigan, Hannah, you know, this is all part, same thing. People seem terribly happy to ignore the fat logic that staring them in their face, and they seem to want to replace it with a minimum one. We all, we all know don't, we all know that fundamentally we need each other. We should be looking after each other. We're all one big bistable family and constantly being, I mean, the biggest, the biggest orthodoxy of them all is, uh, communism as capitalism. Isn't it, nobody seems able to let go of this notion that it has to be growth, you know, that the rich have to get rich. And I mean, it sickens me when I think if they, the people that are making a complete and utter killing out of this, uh, pandemic, it's not nice as it.
Speaker 3 00:43:07 Do you think that your, your perspective as, um, and we're going back to the bait in is a member of the RFDS for as some news who's, who's, uh, in your own words, it's like a grownup, a freak. Do you think that gives you a sense of, uh, perspective, a sense of the nuances that perhaps might evade others?
Speaker 5 00:43:28 I don't see how it could evade others because actually I think that we are all, I I've come to believe that we are all, we're all, we're all seeking for some certainty in the middle that, uh, that some middle ground that probably doesn't exist. You know, my neighbors who came from, uh, Southwick to Shoreham, which is not a, uh, a long distance, I expect at some point they felt that they didn't really belong and, uh, threatened by this and threatened by that. And I think, I think people don't want nuance. Do they? I like nuance. I like it very much. I think, uh, it's a writerly tool, isn't it? But I think people, whether they're, whether they're Irish, English, half Irish, half Hungarian, whoever they are, they'd like to live their life with less nuance or less stuff that they think about, figure out <inaudible>,
Speaker 1 00:44:40 Y'all listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora, subscribe to [email protected]
I asked Janet Bian about her next project for the stage.
Speaker 5 00:44:52 It's about my, my grandmother, Kathleen. So, uh, I have to, I used to do a wonderful limitation of Kathleen <inaudible> <inaudible> Oh, for a cup of tea. I don't know that. I don't think anybody wants an hour of that. So to find something a little less <inaudible>
Speaker 1 00:45:19 Father wrote twice about her, didn't he? Cause there's the novel Kathleen and then was mother of all the beans
Speaker 5 00:45:24 Endlessly about endlessly. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:45:27 Um, how do you feel about going back to the, that this particular, well,
Speaker 5 00:45:34 Oh, um, kind of trepidatious, but I don't, I, I, you know, I want to write something about identity. I wanted very much, but you know what? You're so interested in that, that how we, how we find out who we are, how we decide who we are and what, what is passed down to us from before. And, uh, I suppose there's another aspect of it is that she's she was like me, she was a woman who wanted to own glorious career and had to sit by. That's how I feel about Kathleen is it, is that she was, had, she had such, she was so capable, so tough and so full of talent and, uh, because of poverty and because of being a woman and because of having no contraception and because of having these really kind of, you know, this handful of scallywags to contend with, and I include her husband in that description, um, all she got, she got sort of reflected glory, little bit of limelight here and there.
Speaker 5 00:47:00 And, uh, and, uh, and I sort of feel that energy coming off and I wanted to do something, I suppose, using my experience of feeling that energy, to talk about, you know, how, how, uh, you know, that history is full of women who could have done so much and just didn't get to do it. But the wonderful thing about Kathy was she never let anything get down, put her off, make her gloomy, make her pessimistic. She eat in her nineties, in her, um, uh, old people's home. That civil hell. She was as optimistic as forward looking as she had ever been. And I just, I remember thinking how wonderfully selfish you are and how, what a role model that was a woman who wasn't just going to go, Oh, my lovely grandchildren. Oh, my son's doing this. My son's doing that. Fuck. Then it's about me. And I just thought that was marvelous.
Speaker 3 00:48:25 Do you think you reflect that as well? Is that a part of you? The guy that says FM
Speaker 5 00:48:33 There is, I mean, I struggled to access it because, um, it's just hard to feel wanted, has a woman in her sixties as an actress or as a writer, you know, there's an awful lot of people that don't want you, but I just think I can't let them stop me from doing what I want to do. I have to just ignore that. I think, I think it's very odd thing, isn't it? That everybody wants. Um, you know, I think it all goes back to economics, doesn't it? But how the, uh, if you're a publisher you want a young writer. Well, I suppose that's makes sense because can look better on the back of the book jacket. And, um, they've all got to have this media presence and you might get a string of books out with them. You might only get one book out of me. I've lived alone and fascinating life. And I have a great deal more to say than a lot of young people. So really, and, uh, and so I'm very pleased to be, to be writing plays in creating work that are for women in their sixties, because, uh, I think we are interesting.
Speaker 3 00:49:58 Do you think that, um, that the Irish part of your identity has, has, has shaped you as a, as a, as a writer, as a performer?
Speaker 5 00:50:09 I think so, you know, it's, it's a bit like singing. Um, it it's, uh, it's part of the Irish gift in a way, isn't it to sing, to be put words, you know, and it, it comes about because we sing a lot and we talk a lot, you know, um, must be much harder to come at writing from a kind of a clipped, quiet, respectable family than from one where they kind of, I, what was it that Kenneth Tynan said about Brenda's rightly take, take, uh, takes language out on a spree, which I thought was a wonderful, wonderful phrase. And the Irish do that all the time. Everything that falls from their mouth is like a, to me it's like a beautiful construction of marvelousness. And, uh, I think a lot of it has to do with, uh, the Irish language. Doesn't it, you know, the way things are constructed, it's got it.
Speaker 5 00:51:18 I love Ireland. And, you know, if, if, if it was possible for me to live there, I would. But, uh, the weather's much better here I to say, um, but it's a magic place to me. Maybe that's the reason why I shouldn't live there because I don't want it to not, not be magic. I want it to stay magic. And, um, just, we've got friends with a house on the bearer peninsula and to go to the park and outgrew and just sit there and listen to that accent and listen to those people talking. It doesn't get any better than that.
Speaker 3 00:51:59 You are. Are you one who likes to listen?
Speaker 5 00:52:02 Yes. I've often been forced to listen and want to call it good. I good listener, but I, I think it's fascinating and I've never come across anybody who wasn't interesting. Didn't have an interesting story to tell or an interesting attitude, you know, or, you know, even if people are appalling, they're still interesting.
Speaker 3 00:52:31 And what does being a member of the diaspora what's that meant to you?
Speaker 5 00:52:36 It's, it's been fantastically enriching, and I'm also, I'm married to a Northern Irish Protestant. So this sort of whole, this three entire, well four, if you think about, um, the Yorkshire law and the, uh, the Manchester law and the Dublin law and the Northern Irish, not, you know, that's, this is a very rich heritage, something to be pleased about, isn't it,
Speaker 3 00:53:09 Our plans for after the, uh, after lockdown ends and so on. Um, but, uh, you said you mentioned Manchester as a possibility for, um, for, uh, why shouldn't I go,
Speaker 5 00:53:20 Well, first of all, we'll do it in the Brighton fringe in may I say we will, who knows this is just the most, most peculiar set of circumstances, aren't they? Um, and, and once I've done that, they will start looking into doing it. There's a wonderful Irish heritage center up there that, uh, wanted, and there's a lovely little art center with the Birch up there that wants it. And, um, it's, uh, maybe do a little tour of, um, living pool, that pool, places like that, a lot of Irish people up there. And, uh, but we are working. We're hoping that the word Fest is going to take place this October Shorewood first in some form. And so I'm planning to do a scratch production of the Kathleen, Kathleen and me, I think, um, show for that, see how that goes. I was hoping to sing in it, but singing is so senior years of complete Dodo at the moment is that, so our choir was paid to go and sing it, avoid it on Saturday. And even that week we cried too risky.
Speaker 4 00:54:37 Yeah, you could mine.
Speaker 5 00:54:40 Well, I'll have to mind when tire Kathy Kathy made a, um, an LP when she was in a nineties cold war when all the world is young. And, uh, I could mind to that couldn't I that'd be a laugh. Um, yeah. I mean, that's the other thing I would say about Kathleen's her brother of course wrote the lyrics to the Irish national Anthem.
Speaker 4 00:55:04 Yes, I was going to, I was going to mention that. So it's, it's, um, that's quite something, isn't it,
Speaker 5 00:55:11 It is something it's a Marvel or something and we all, all the, um, it's the colonies, of course not the beans. Um, cause Christian name was that Kathleen Carney and all the carnies were asked in, uh, 2016, which of course was there. Um, Centenery of the Irish arising are all called the Eros of the wrong. Uh, and we all met the, the, the president and his wife and had a lovely, he and lovely, lovely sort of beat. And they showed round the place. And on the way out, I was waiting for my taxi and my lovely Angie, Paula, Paula. And there was a glass case with a big book in it. And the book was signed Elizabeth. And I said, Oh look. And she said, not by queen. And I thought, Oh, marvelous to live in a Republic just yet. I just thought the whole thing was fantastically to live somewhere where you don't have that aristocracy. You don't have that ruling class. That's really something
Speaker 4 00:56:30 I'm going to just wrap up with a couple of final questions. Do you, do you think writing is an act of optimism?
Speaker 5 00:56:39 Yes. It's an act of crazy optimism because the likelihood of it getting published just seems terribly remote, but it's all, it's more than anything. It's an act of solace, isn't it? It's a, it's a, and it, to me, it's a kind of a necessity. I have things I need to get down on paper and that's what makes me do it. What happens to it afterwards? I have to deal with afterwards 10 time, nothing to talk about until the thing is actually done.
Speaker 4 00:57:05 You just, how would you describe yourself as a seaside gardener?
Speaker 5 00:57:08 Oh yes. Well, I am, I am easy. I can tell you, um, uh, lots of things don't want to grow out there, but I keep persistently trying to make them
Speaker 4 00:57:23 Well, there's a metaphor. Yes.
Speaker 5 00:57:28 We have a front garden in the back garden. The front garden, um, is too close to the sea to really be reliably. You know, there's blowing a Gale now and, uh, you know, couple of times in winter, it just flattens everything. But the back garden is far enough away. Bring in vegetables and grow them. Nobody seems to want to eat them. Okay. Great satisfaction from them.
Speaker 4 00:57:52 Well, keep on growing them and keep them rising.
Speaker 1 00:58:01 You've been listening to the plastic podcast with me, subdividing. I'm a guest Gemini. You can find out. So Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email us at the plastic podcast, gmail.com or indeed subscribe to www.plasticpodcasts.com music for me by Jack Devani, the podcasts be supported using public funding by all this council.