After a 33-year career in which he championed some of the most challenging and innovative drama of the 20th century , Michael Colgan will exit the stage this year when he retires as artistic director of Dublin’s Gate Theatre. Long established as Dublin’s second great theatre, and often in the shadow cast by its famous rival the Abbey Theatre, The Gate flourished under Colgan’s stewardship as he fearlessly promoted the work of revolutionary playwrights and dramatists such as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Brian Friel. Now as he prepares to wave goodbye to the stage, a series of performances entitled Beckett Friel Pinter will take place to celebrate those plays which Colgan held dearest over the course of his long and distinguished career.
Speaking of his tenure at the helm of the Gate, Colgan said: “I feel that The Gate is a theatre in permanent opposition…you’ll never be in government but you should look at unjustifiable neglect, and Beckett and Pinter were unjustifiably neglected.”
One of Colgan’s most notable artistic triumphs was his hugely successful direction of Beckett’s ground-breaking Waiting for Godot, which toured throughout the world and received high acclaim in venues as far-flung as Shanghai, Toronto and Melbourne. Colgan was also instrumental in giving valuable exposure to the work of Tyrone dramatist Brian Friel whose plays Dancing at Lughnasa, Philadelphia Here I Come! and Faith Healer saw him elevated to the pantheon of great Irish playwrights.
Colgan attracted some criticism for what was perceived as his reluctance to highlight the work of female dramatists over the course of his career, but he argues that the plays which attracted him were those which simply happened to be written by male playwrights. “I wouldn’t be the darling of the Waking the Feminists movement..I’m a classicist, I love traditional plays, I love the well made play….unfortunately they were nearly all done by men”.
After 33 years in which he worked alongside such acting luminaries as Ralph Fiennes, Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon among others, Michael Colgan can look fondly back on a lifetime spent dedicated to highlighting some of the most daring and provocative drama of the 20th century. By staging the Beckett Friel Pinter mini-festival, the Gate have found the perfect way of honouring it’s most acclaimed director.