The Giants Cause


Finn: James Ellis

Mrs Finn: Frances Tomelty

The Black One: Roma Tomelty

The Fingal: Clive Russell

Wee Davey: Luke O'Reilly

McCorquodale: Richard Dormer

The Cally: Laura Hughes

Directed by Lawrence Jackson

Down on the wild North Antrim shore, the giant Finn MacCoul toils on his new project. He has epic credits to his name: he built the Giant's Ring on the outskirts of Belfast; with one scoop of his hand he hollowed out Lough Neagh and created the Isle of Man. This new project too has epic in it – but that's as much as he knows, for all he sees around him is a jumble and tumble of colossal 'black logs o' rock' lying spilled in confusion along the shore. They have the makings of something great, but what? A mighty tower? A Giant's Castle…? As he toils to lift and move and arrange them into some sort of working order, which may give him a sense of what they have in them to be, twice to him a vision comes: an apocalyptic eruption from the earth itself, as of some monstrous wonder striving to be born – but it fades and is gone before Finn can glimpse what it is.

Dispirited yet compelled, and with only a croaking crow for company, he labours on. He is plagued with memories and the dread of earlier adversaries – a Scottish giant, a dragon, a mountain witch the Cally, all worsted by one trick or other but likely at any moment to return and settle the score. And today, strange visitors appear: in the morning a boy 'Wee Davey', half-English half-Irish, come from a distant future to behold the 'wonder of all Ireland' that Finn has made, but who cannot break through the time-barrier to tell Finn what it is; and in the afternoon the odious McCorquodale, white-suited critic researching for a book on 'Giants in a Post-Modern Age', in which Finn will rate only a footnote, marginal figure as he is, and blundering along by mere blind instinct rather than intellectual enough to have a 'guiding concept'.

And now, a third time, the vision comes…

Sure, a manifest allegory of the creative process - but that's on its hidden inner level. Primarily, an old Ulster folk-tale in its own right, told in an idiom rich and black as the turves of county Antrim herself. I had thought (see Theatre: The Saxon Shore ) my 'Irish string' long broken. Here suddenly it sprang into song again. It was a joy to work with a great company of crew and players across the water in Belfast – not least with the schoolboy Luke O'Reilly who came over from Derry to play Wee Davey when he should have been taking an exam, and whose ear for that divided character's speech was uncanny in its accuracy. To do everybody's gifts and humour true justice we would have needed at least an extra afternoon in the studio, for them all to tune in fully to the pitch of the thing, but we were cruelly against the clock – BBC are mean and short-sighted in such vital matters. It needed also a more seismic, 'symphonic' soundscape than could be devised in the time. (Perhaps I was hearing too wildly in the head.) Also, some of the language had to be toned down for the Radio 4 afternoon audience, and in accordance with the BBC's new post-Hutton 'compliance' directives.

The play had been cajoled into existence by its young director, who had bravely taken it upon himself to break my 10 years' radio silence. For some reason it proved the most difficult of all my radio works to write – I had as much difficulty organizing its material as Finn has with his 'black logs o' rock'. And for reasons of length a deal of it had to be cut. All in all, an infuriating experience for me, but one I shall treasure.