According to Ernest Hemmingway, ‘There are only three sports; mountaineering, bull fighting and motor racing, everything else is just games.’ This is no truer than when quoted in reference to Road Racing. Nick Snow is an avid fan of the sport and an enthusiastic motorcyclist. This month in conjunction with Anthony Fox of the New Theatre in Dublin’s Temple Bar, himself a sports bike rider for many years, the team are putting on a new play about the sport. This will heavily feature and pay tribute to the Dunlop family, and in particular Michael.
Bringing the story to the boards was quite a challenge. Yet in many ways it’s the perfect place for it to be told. When we step back from it, this very much has all the features of one of Shakespeare’s plays. It is, indeed, a story which contains equal amounts of glory and tragedy. Both are delivered in a powerful and uncompromising way. Nick elaborates, “I knew I wanted a simple two-handed dialogue, and I knew it would depict a debate involving Michael, William’s younger brother, at a time when he had to decide whether to continue his career and pursue his chance to surpass his own Uncle Joey as the most winning Isle of Man TT racer in history”.
Shakespeare’s tragedies were inspired by the Greek Myths. In the play Michael was faced with the classical ‘Achilles Dilemma’. Is glory, and its often tragic price, the better option to take than the safe and quiet life?
In it’s telling the play asks not just Michael, but also the audience, how are we to calibrate what is safe enough, versus what that safety costs to the quality of our lives? The safest possible option often seems to be the obvious choice but, it is not without consequences.
On stage these themes are seen through the prism of the extremes of Road racing. The risks that road racers take are ‘insane’ by normal standards. Yet who but they can say whether the rewards are equally outsized? And what of us, the fans, who watch and cheer them to glory and mourn them when they don’t finish the ultimate lap? Are we vicariously living through them, allowing them to take our risks? After all, life is never so vivid as when presented with a pressing and immediate mortal risk. To quote Achilles, ‘The gods envy us, for any moment may be our last.’
Nick, like many of us, has a powerful love of motorcycles. Riding them as a teenager and then in 2020, he went to training school, passed the test and got himself a bike. He describes it as “The very best thing I have done in years, and I wanted to convey an inkling of the special autonomy, the rare agency, that comes with riding. A person and a machine in partnership, in harmony. A computer can drive your car, but good luck to any microchip that tries to take control on two wheels!”
We couldn’t agree more! The Safety Catch is on at The New Theatre in Dublin from the 1st of November until the 12th. It’s directed by Joe O'Byrne and stars Andrew McCracken and Fra Gunn. To buy tickets see, click here and we’ll see you on opening night!