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fibre of life Brendan Gleeson urges Government to 'pump cash into the arts' after Covid impact

'People will be shy about going out,' he said, but added: 'I think mental health is to be found in the theatre'


Brendan Gleeson with piper Niamh Landale in 2017

Brendan Gleeson with piper Niamh Landale in 2017

Brendan Gleeson with piper Niamh Landale in 2017

Brendan Gleeson has urged the Government to start pumping money into the arts, describing it as "part of the fibre of life".

Gleeson, who is currently filming Martin McDonagh's new movie The Banshees of Inisherin in Co Mayo, has been honoured for his lifetime contribution to theatre by the Dublin Theatre Festival.

The actor made it clear he was supportive of a campaign to fund theatres out of the pandemic, as each venue is operating at a maximum of 60pc of capacity under current pandemic restrictions.

"The Government should take it as a given, in the same way you have to pay CAP, that the homeless will have to be housed, and we have to have the arts," Gleeson told a Dublin Theatre Festival live stream yesterday evening.

"And they will have to pump money into it, to get us over the Covid thing."

Gleeson said if there was one thing that society had learned from the pandemic, it was the importance of the arts and the "communal experience" that had been lost to Covid-19.

"People will be shy about going out," he said, but added: "I think mental health is to be found in the theatre."

The festival runs until October 17 at half audience capacity, and it is currently fundraising through the Future Stages initiative to help finance the arts after the pandemic.

However, Gleeson urged the State to do more.

"Everyone needs an economy, but everyone needs a theatre too," he said. "I do think Covid has allowed people to see the importance of arts, it's part of the fibre of life.

"We obviously need to be fed and clothed and have shelter, which is not happening too easily either these days.

"But if you get to a place of being fed and sheltered, then engaging the heart and soul, the way theatre and the arts do, is of vital importance.

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The star, who acted alongside his sons Domhnall and Brian in The Walworth Farce at the 3Olympia Theatre in Dublin in 2015, added that he felt Ireland should be opening up more for theatre-goers given the country's high vaccination rates.

"We are over 90pc double vaccinated," Gleeson said.

He felt this should mean more seats be filled, if "important" issues such as ventilation and other safety measures are in place.

Going back to the theatre post-pandemic had to be made part of "our experience," he said, adding that this was necessary to allow "that our mind is occupied". The performer felt theatres also needed to entice audiences back to shows and make them feel they were missing out on something important.

He added that he saw value in exploring live streams to complement and not replace live shows.

This would be, he felt, another revenue stream.

"The thrill of what happened in the '80s, the '80s saw people who didn't normally go to the theatre, going," he added.

"I think it can happen again. Writers and producers, we should start looking at what's there.

"People are thirsty in a way they've never been before for empathy, for joy, distress and ordinariness.

"And that's the best thing going sometimes. When you suddenly realise everyone is on the same bus."

Thanking the festival for the award, the Dubliner said: "What theatre has given to me, what I've given to theatre, has all been a very fulfilling gift and it means an awful lot to me this (award).

"I'd like to thank everyone down the years whom I've collaborated with.

"I think this Covid thing will make us stronger. We are beginning to understand the necessity of what happens in the theatre.

"We appeal to people to try to keep supporting it."

Gleeson, who grew up in Artane, north Dublin, is one of the country's best-known actors.

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