Mick Lally’s finest role was being himself


Nice piece in today’s Irish Times by Marie Murray, on why the death of Mick Lally last week resonated with so many of us.

“People grieve for the actor who died, for the person he was, for the talent he had, for the characters he portrayed and for what he brought to life on the stage….Plays are psychological events…. That is why we revere actors: they incarnate our fears and fantasies and invite us into emotional experiences that might otherwise be unavailable to us…Actors allow us to look at life in all its moments; in its graciousness and rawness, profundity and vulnerability, and in the astounding poignant fragility and ordinariness of our everyday relationships with each other. From the safety of our seats, protected by darkness, we peek at life, as if through an uncurtained window, into our own souls.”

It is this soul which the actor holds in his hands and that is why certain actors are especially loved, and Mick Lally was truly loved. We trusted him with our souls. The outpouring of grief at his death is for him, his family, his colleagues and for theatre itself. It is because he was not just a fine actor, but because he was a fine person. And in the psychology of acting we need actors to be fine.

Just as one cannot separate the dancer from the dance, one cannot separate the actor from the part: it is in the recesses of the actor’s own being that he finds what he bestows upon us, interpreting us with nuance, mercy and gentleness, however complex or dark the character being portrayed may be.

We go to the theatre not to see others but to see ourselves. And whatever part Mick Lally played he provided it with dignity. We may ask if we loved the Glenroe character Miley because we loved Mick Lally, or Mick Lally because we loved Miley. We loved them both, because together they gave us a character that became part of our memory of Ireland at a particular time.

“Whether we knew him or not, we grieve for Mick Lally whose finest role was being himself. He reminded us of what we were at our best: of rural Ireland or sense of place, of grace above show, of intellect that was quiet and accent that retained its own origin, expression that was genuine, sincerity that was deep, and surety that was gentle despite its power. His entrances and exits are ended and as he leaves we must be truly grateful for how he peopled our lives and portrayed us to ourselves.”


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