Language of the mute by Jack Harte

Jack Harte made his debut as a playwright with Language of the Mute, which ran for two weeks -24 August to 5 September, 2015- at the New Theatre, Dublin, to full houses and to general acclaim.

Directed by Liam Halligan, the play is exciting and holds the audience on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. It opens with two ex-students invading the classroom of their old teacher, taking him prisoner, and setting up a Kangaroo Court to try him for alleged offences. While the play deals with an historic incident of child abuse, it takes a broad look at how idealistic people can be exploited and abused through their idealism. It illustrates how someone with great charisma can use that charisma for unscrupulous purposes. And, as the title suggests, it is about our inability to use language to communicate. So the canvas is broad. Reviewing it for the Sunday Independent, Emer O'Kelly thought that the allusion to Pearse and 1916 was the most significant aspect of the play.

The National Tour

In May, 2016, Language of the Mute toured a number of theatres around Ireland and was received enthusiastically in all the venues. This was the tour:

    Sat 7 May The Riverbank (Newbridge)

    Mon 9 May The Civic (Tallaght)

    Tues 10 May The Civic (Tallaght)

    Wed 11 May The Hawk's Well (Sligo)

    Thurs 12 May Backstage (Longford)

    Fri 13 May Roscommon Arts Centre

    Sat 14 May Taibhdhearc (Galway)

Language of the Mute is available in book form from Scotus Press

Read an artice on Language of the Mute from The Guardian

Some Audience Reaction:

Jack Harte is liable to face calls for his burning at the stake for his first play Language of the Mute. The play’s passion to de-bunk blood sacrifice is as fierce as it is salutary…it cuts to the heart. This is an important play, and deserves some serious objective consideration.
       -  Sunday Independent

With a literary feel throughout, Language of the Mute has some beautiful dialogue and tender moments in what is a very difficult tale to tell. It bravely tackles subjects that some would rather not acknowledge and in doing so attempts to give words to those who cannot speak or who are not listened to. The drama takes place between the 1990s and the 1970s, with the transition between these periods being very well directed (Liam Halligan) and structured. The simple classroom set by Eoin Lennon is reminiscent of classrooms up and the down the country. Of note, Dene BOLA’s sound skills add an eerie calmness to the transitions and this works very well at furthering the emotional impact of the tale.   
    The Public Reviews

It is an absolute roller coaster of emotion. It is extremely well produced and acted. To my mind it is one of the most important plays we're likely to see as we get ready for the commemoration of the Rising. It is about a particularly foul republican paedophile but has so much of value to say about the Ireland we lived in.  The Catholic Church does not escape. Although I am a priest of that church and the writer, a friend of mine, is an atheist, I feel it's the best play I have seen in years. 
       -  Padraig J Daly, Poet

While addressing powerfully the more obvious questions of nationalism and sexual abuse that I expected of it, Language of the Mute by Jack Harte ultimately took me by surprise by being a genuinely profound and moving study of the Irish experience of language, languages, and communication failure. Easily the best thing I've seen in the theatre for a long time.   
    -  Dr John Kearns (Editor, Translation Ireland)

I wanted to let you know how powerful I found your play; it really lingered in my imagination long after the performance. I was particularly struck by the wider questions you raised around leadership of, and control over, the young. There was something very generous (if that’s the word) in how you looked at Pearse’s legacy as filtered through Donie. I thought finishing on Pearse’s speech an incredibly resonant choice. It gave the awful central issue around abuse a secondary chord which is just as relevant for Ireland today. In terms of having seen the reading a couple of years back, I loved how you developed the piece. In particular how you gave Donie a voice, allowed him to dig his own grave while also revealing his dark charisma. And I was glad you stuck to your guns on the language; the moment when the girl confronts the two lads - saying that the word ‘abuse’ is as much a mask as silence - was very powerful. It was also terribly moving; particularly when Matthew’s character realised how complicit he was in covering up. You must be delighted with the whole process and proud of your achievement
    - Mia Gallagher, Writer and Actor

What can I say? I was blown away. Really and truly, it's an incredibly powerful play, a fascinating and deeply disturbing character study and an excellent examination of the inter-relatedness of Nationalism, Language, and Religion. I absolutely loved the classroom scenes in Irish. I've lost the language since school and it was just a pleasure to be in the presence of it again - the charisma and ease with which the teacher could then pervert his influence on those kids was palpable and very, very real. The structure of the play was brilliantly handled and directed and there was not a missed beat or a dull moment. I didn't know what to expect when I went in but the second the kids burst in the door it was unrelenting in it's dramatic force and cut deep into the bones! The final scene, the fact that the actors had to rely upon quotations from the 'Playboy' to give them a happy story, because they had nothing of that power to draw upon from their own lives, was a stroke of genius: devastating, cleverly chosen, and perfectly cathartic. All in all, an extremely brave, honest and deeply compassionate work. I loved it. 
    - Andrew McEneff, Writer and Lecturer

Some of the Media coverage of Language of the Mute:

Local papers and radio gave extensive coverage to the national tour of Language of the Mute:

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