A searing portrait of abuse - Mannix Flynn’s one man show ‘James X’ in NYC
'James X' hits the stage in NYC
The Irish reflex of looking the other way when you’re not directly implicated may be a consequence of colonialism, or it might be universal human nature.
If you spend your whole life bracing for the hammer to fall you might want to pretend it isn’t happening when it hits your neighbor instead of you. How else to explain Ireland’s shocking code of silence when it comes to the decades long abuses perpetrated by the state and religious orders against our own children?
It’s become a cliché for generations of Irish people who lived through those years to claim they had no idea what was going on. That claim rings as hollow as the ones made by wives and families of former concentration camp guards during World War II, though. Willful ignorance is not actual ignorance.
Decade after decade unruly young working class Irish boys with no one to protect their wellbeing were sent to brutal Victorian era industrial schools up and down the country.
High spirited girls were abandoned to the modern day slavery of the Magdalene laundries, and terrified children came home to their parents with tales of inappropriate priests, yet for generations all of their claims were absorbed by the wall of silence and shame that had been carefully placed between them and their own agency, taking away every opportunity for justice or redress.
It wasn’t just that something bad had happened to them. They discovered that the Irish state and religious authorities had made the idea of discussing the abuse so taboo that they found they couldn’t even raise their voices in their own defense.
It does something to people, justice denied. It disavows the abuse they suffered. It’s a further form of abuse itself, in fact.
You don’t need to tell that to Gerard Mannix Flynn, the writer and performer of James X, the shocking and often immensely powerful testament of one of Ireland’s forgotten boys directed by film star Gabriel Byrne and now playing at 45 Bleecker Theater in New York.
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