Activist, theatre director, writer and producer Grace Dyas is well known for her unflinching stance in tackling issues in Irish society. Her new work with THEATREclub addresses ‘early risers’, Magdalene Laundries and the #metoo campaign.
Is the premise behind We Don’t Know What’s Buried Here about the need for women to assume control of their own stories; their past, present and future amid a spate of injustices (specifically The Magdalene Laundries in this production). What theatrical devices are you employing to represent this on stage?
Myself and Doireann Coady play Tina and Bernadette, two Magdalene ghosts looking for closure. Bernadette is looking for her babies in bones, after hearing about the scandal at Tuam. I play Tina, I’m looking for the truth about what has happened in the state over the past one hundred years. In our own ways we’re both trying to understand, reclaim and give voice to our own stories.
Through your exposure of Michael Colgan’s behaviour in your company and subsequently revelations about his abuse of power at the Gate, you describe yourself as having become a “vehicle for a mass disclosure of abuse of power in Irish Public Life”. How do you feel about that and the measures taken, or yet to be taken, to address it?
It’s been a complicated and life changing experience. I am honoured that so many people chose to trust me with their stories, the option of being public wasn’t possible for the majority of people. I found it disturbing and damaging to hear that much unnecessary pain from so many strangers over a short period of time. I had to really look after myself and seek support and it has taken a toll. I am glad that in many cases I sought advice and helped the victims who came to me to seek justice privately, but I’m still troubled by the accounts where no resolution has been reached. In the end, I had to try to let go to a certain extent and trust the universe that justice will prevail. I believe that others will pick up where I left off and this movement will grow and flourish. In the meantime, I’m here to listen and believe anyone who would like to speak to me. I’ll try my best to help.
How do you currently feel about the Repeal movement and the forthcoming referendum on the Eight Amendment? What are your greatest hopes and fears in relation to it?
My hope is that we allow dissent and complexity of people’s views on the issue to be heard, that we don’t let our passion rise to a place where we shout others down. I hope that myself and Emma Fraser can tour NOT AT HOME around the country to provide a calm space for the undecided (you can support us on indiegogo)
I am afraid that the movement will lose the working class vote and that we will be duped into thinking we are doing something by preaching to the converted. The citizens assembly and the #8committee has taught us that listening works. I hope we can take that into the campaign with us.
What do you think about the danger of the #metoo campaign conflating a scale of experiences? Is this necessary and is this device the best way to raise attention?
I think #metoo raises a lot of fears for people as it is an entirely new way of dealing with this issue. For so long we have been comfortable in our silence and our complicity. I don’t think human experiences should be scaled according to another’s subjective view of how bad they are. I do think we need robust reporting procedures in all workplaces that allow people to come forward and report abuse. It’s important to remember that #metoo is a consequence of those procedures not being in place.
Abuse is not something victims should have to disclose publicly in order to gain justice. I think it’s necessary right now, but I would like to see a way going forward where people don’t have to put themselves through that. It has taken a toll on me and the other 13 women who came forward about Michael Colgan. I hope soon no one will have to do what we did.
Can you explain the concept behind your Bring These Stories Home project which you are currently crowd-funding?
Yes. We want to take our installation NOT AT HOME to every town and city in Ireland – particularly rural towns. It is a performed archive of women’s lived experiences, we hope it will help Irish people make an informed choice in how to vote in the referendum, a choice informed by the voices of women and not the shouting of politicians.
We are hoping to create radical empathy, solidarity and love and create a corrective experience for women forced to travel by bringing their stories back to their homeland.
We Don’t Know What’s Buried Here is on The Civic Theatre in Tallaght from Thursday February 15 to Saturday February 17. the Axis in Ballymun on Tuesday February 20 and the Mermaid Arts Centre on Thursday February 22.
The NOT AT HOME campaign can be supported at indiegogo.com/projects/bring-these-stories-home-women-health#/
Feature Photo: Dorje de Burgh