Enda Walsh: Brexit result reflects British ‘inferiority complex’

Playwright says world has ‘become a lot more polarised and a lot scarier, politically’

Playwright Enda Walsh has said he believes the Brexit referendum result reflects a British "inferiority complex ".

The award-winning writer and director,whose latest play opens at the Galway International Arts Festival on Monday, also said he believed the world had “become a lot more polarised and a lot scarier, politically” than a decade ago.

Walsh, who lives with his family in England, said he was not surprised by the outcome of the Brexit referendum last month.

"My wife works in the Financial Times and she was talking to the guys in there and they were going, 'ah, it's not going to happen', and so there's a lot of really shocked people," he said.

Walsh said he believed “white Britain” had an “inferiority complex, culturally”, as reflected in the result.

“Looking at what happened to the north of England, effectively they pulled us into... the austerity they had been under for the last five years,” he said. “Unfortunately they are the people who are going to feel the recession in the next six years or so.”

Media ‘lies’

Walsh was critical of certain elements of the British press for feeding the public “a lot of lies” and deflecting attention from the government performance, or lack of it, on inward migration.

How society views immigrants – a term he admits he hates, as it "suggests these are not real people" - is one of the themes in his new play, Arlington, which has its world premiere in Galway.

The author of The Walworth Farce, Misterman, Ballyturk, who worked with the late David Bowie and re-invented Roald Dahl in the past year, admitted that it may be his most political play yet.

“I know it is a response to that feeling in the last six or seven years that the world has become a lot more polarised and it’s a lot scarier than what it was ten years ago,” he said.

"And having conversations with my daughter about Isis and Syria and immigrants and where these refugees are coming from...I've always really been fearful about things, so there is an inbuilt anxiety to a lot of the work...but that anxiety is usually a sort of personal thing."

Walsh said that working with Bowie on the musical Lazarus in the US had been a "real honour".

“ I found out two months into it that he had cancer and that we knew what we were going to be writing about..... a man and his relationship with dying and death,” he said. “But he was like an adorable, really really funny man and a great collaborator and really positive about that work. There was no ego to it.”

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys is due to open the visual arts section of Galway International Arts Festival on Sunday, with artist Hughie O'Donoghue's new exhibition, One Hundred Years and Four Quarters, being one of the highlights. The Galway Fringe also runs over the next fortnight.