- 09 May 17
As artistic director of the Gate for 33 years, Michael Colgan was one of the most powerful and influential people in the world of Irish theatre. Having departed the post recently, he reflects on his extraordinary career, his youthful rivalry with Paul McGuinness, the pain he experienced over his ex-wife’s death, getting to know Samuel Beckett, and relaunching Harold Pinter.
I didn’t know Michael Colgan from Adam before we sat down for this exclusive interview. I had been told, by theatre insiders, that he was loud, full of himself and wouldn’t let you get a word in edge–ways. The man I met defied that stereotype completely. I liked him a lot.
Originally from the South Circular Road, he grew up around the corner from Gay Byrne and Brendan Grace and went to school in the Christian Brothers in James Street. He may subsequently have flown high in the world of the arts, but – as readers will see – he never really lost touch with those working class roots.
Regardless of what you might think of him, the legacy of his 35 years with the Gate Theatre is a rich one. He pulled what was a faded Dublin theatrical institution out of the proverbial fire – and in the process brought the likes of Samuel Beckett out of the wilderness and into the mainstream. One of his great achievements was filming those 19 wonderful stage plays, with directors of the calibre of Neil Jordan, artist Damien Hirst, John Crowley, Anthony Minghella and Patricia Rozema behind the cameras, and the likes of John Hurt, David Kelly, Michael Gambon, Julianne Moore and Kirsten Scott Thomas turning in stellar performances. It could also be said that he helped to rejuvenate Harold Pinter’s career, helping him to scoop a Nobel Prize in the process.