STEPHEN Byrne has the theatre in his blood. Like all good thespians it seems to be something that’s in the genes.
His aunt was the great Dundalk thespian Molly Bonner, who, along with Kitty McDermott, would of course be considered the great doyennes of Dundalk’s wonderful theatrical history.
Stephen and Matt Murphy set up the Dundalk Theatre Workshop and have been responsible for some of the town’s finest theatrical productions, among them Someone To Watch Over Me, the dramatic version of Brian Keenan’s memoir which toured so successfully in the States.
Stephen has now written a brilliant play called The Importance of Being Wilde which has had standing ovations whereever it has been performed.
So far that includes Spain and Ireland and the people of Dundalk and Louth will have an opportunity to see it for themselves this week when it comes to the AV Theatre at the County Museum in Jocelyn Street.
“I acted in various plays by Wilde,” said Stephen, “and I suggested that this might go down well.
“Then I talked to Matt and we decided to tour Ireland with it.
“We performed in Laois a couple of weeks ago and the reception was fantastic.
“It runs for one hour and forty minutes and has the same format as Micheal MacLiammoir’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I saw MacLeammoir in the Gaiety when I was a kid.”
Macliammoir toured the world with his production of Wilde. With it he invented the one-man show and put poor old Oscar back into fashion.
Since that 1960s classic was created their have been many works based on Wilde’s work and his life.
Richard Ellmann, who wrote the great 1959 biography on James Joyce, procduced a biography on Wilde about twenty years ago.
And Peter Ackryod, who did a wonderful biography on TS Eliott, wrote a great Wildean pastiche, The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde.
Stephen is very familiar with all of these great works, as well as The Field Day production Dorian Grey and a work on Constance Wilde, who was born in Wexford town, and was a genius in her own right.
“We have gone with the kind of material that people enjoy most about Wilde,” said Stephen. “It’s unashamedly has a populist appeal.”
Stephen divides his time between acting and writing, between Dundalk and The Salon De Variete theatre in southern Spain, where he now lives.
It is the only English-speaking theatre in that part of Spain.
It is a professional company made up of 25 people, but he still finds that the Irish talent for the stage is second to none.
“The standard of acting here in Ireland is really good,” said Stpehen. “There are some terrific actors in England, but we can do accents. The English find accents difficult to do.
The Importance of Being Wilde looks set for a nationwide tour but you can see it first at the Av Theatre County Museum Dundalk this Friday and Saturday 15 and 16 March at 8pm.
Tickets available at the door on the evening of performance.