In a Word . . . Doctorate

Some day I may write the book – Marie Mullen: My Role in Creating One of Ireland's Greatest Actors. It will be short.

I used tell the story way back in the previous millennium when, as the last theatre critic for the Irish Press before its closure in 1995 (an unrelated event!), I was challenged on my credentials for the role.

Once my would-be-accusers heard the story of how I helped make Marie great they were (a) thoroughly convinced of my suitability to be a theatre critic and (b) they never questioned my qualifications again.

This arose at NUI Galway last month when the immensely worthy Marie was conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Arts by university president Jimmy Browne.

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Drama Society

Back more years than any of us care to be reminded, Marie and I became students at the then

University College Galway

(UCG) in the same year. We did not know one another. We also joined the drama society which was still aglow following triumphal performances of Peter Barnes’s black comedy

The Ruling Class

in the previous academic year.

It brought awards and had audiences rushing the stage to save an actor they believed was hanging. He wasn’t.

A dynamic committee convinced some of us first years to direct our own plays, about which some of us (moi!) had not one, single, clue. The play that came my way was Everyman, a medieval morality dirge which had as much dramatic content as a stopped clock.

But it was 20 minutes long, and had a cast of 17. Not too demanding then and great potential in those numbers for craic. Which was had in abundance.

One of the great unknowns who auditioned for one of those 17 roles was Marie Mullen. She was not deemed worthy and went next door where Garry Hynes was auditioning for her first play as a director, Brian Friel's The Loves of Cass McGuire. Garry cast Marie in the lead.

What would have happened had Marie instead been cast for any 17 Everyman roles? As God even? Where would she be today? We discussed this at her conferring in Galway last month. She was so very grateful to me. I blushed, unseen.

Doctorate, the highest academic degree in any field of knowledge, is derived from the Latin doctoratus,from docere, "to show, teach, cause to know".