An Irishwoman’s Diary on Jeremy Irons, Judi Dench and a Kilkenny cat
‘Langrishe, Go Down’
Jeremy Irons: recalled role
The film Langrishe, Go Down, which was made in the summer of 1978, was shot in and around the city of Waterford and across the river in the village of Slieverue in south Co Kilkenny. The dilapidated grounds and rooms of Springfield House on the banks of the Suir were used to brilliant effect as the home of the impoverished Langrishe family.
According to the New Yorker “both actors are brilliant in a tale that moves from erotic awakening to Strindbergian torment”.
Based on Aidan Higgins’s 1966 award-winning novel, the book was adapted for the screen by the late Harold Pinter, who also features in the film in a scene-stealing role as an inebriated Irishman, Barry Shannon.
This forgotten film, which was made for BBC Television in association with RTÉ, was first screened in September 1978 as the 90-minute BBC2 “Play of the Week”.
Langrishe, Go Down was never shown on Irish television, and only in July 2002 was it rereleased as a theatrical 16mm feature film following its debut screening in the US in 2001 as part of the Harold Pinter Festival.
Last year, the organisers of the local Éigse Sliabh Rua festival decided to host a gala screening and show the rarely seen film on a big screen for the first time in the village where it was made.
The delicately paced arthouse work was received with rapturous applause by those present in the packed ballroom of the Rhu Glenn Country Club Hotel.
Adding even more excitement to the event was the presence of Jeremy Irons, who was there to enjoy the screening, along with his wife and actor Sinéad Cusack.
Roger Murray-Leach, the film’s art director, was also present.
Former school principal and journalist Pat McEvoy was another budding actor at the time who secured a role as a young tennis-playing boy. Local historian Michael Griffin from Slieverue was there on the night of the screening also and he recalled the excitement of friends and neighbours who queued during the summer of 1978 to take part in some of the film’s crowd scenes.
Irons plays the part of Otto Beck, a German student who is writing his thesis and rents the gate lodge from the Langrishe family.
It’s easy to spot many of the well-known Irish actors of the day in this film, such as Joan O’Hara, Niall O’Brien, Margaret Whiting, John Molly, Michael O’Brien, Liam O’Callaghan and Arthur O’Sullivan.
One story recalled last year involved the starring role of a large cat, who can be seen stretched on a bed at various stages throughout the film.
Those gathered in a pub on the city’s mall to view the film on BBC 2 when it was aired in 1978 knew the story of this cat well – that it belonged to a local convent and that it was lent by the nuns to their local butcher when he asked if he could borrow it for the film. There was much hilarity and consternation in the pub that night at the butcher’s upset when he realised that the film contained nudity and love-making scenes and that the nuns might not be too pleased.
After the screening, Irons and Murray-Leach answered questions from the audience and they stayed to have a drink with the locals. Memories about the making of the film were relived and spoken of warmly. Broadcaster Billy McCarthy, of WLR FM, was there to charm an interview from Irons.