CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED Donal Courtney stars in his own play, ‘God Has No Country’.
‘God Has No Country’ stars Donal Courtney
After recently hosting highly engaging one-man performance plays such as ‘The Man in the Woman’s Shoes’ and ‘I Hear You and Rejoice’, Westport Town Hall Theatre is delighted to welcome another critically-acclaimed one-man show based on true events called ‘God Has No Country’ on Thursday, October 10.
As a wave of fascism over-ran the European continent in the late 1930s and early 1940s, many people were propelled into the most extraordinary moral and ethical dilemmas in their bid to survive the onslaught of extreme forces and destructive ideologies. Persecution of minority groups, Jews, slaves, disabled people and others, became widespread in Germany and the occupied territories, leaving many people with harrowing decisions between ensuring their own survival and doing whatever they could to protect those targeted by this persecution. One man from Killarney, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, faced up to those choices with incredible bravery and heroism. And he is celebrated by actor, director and playwright Donal Courtney in his play ‘God Has No Country’.
“This story about what he did during World War II to help people isn’t known,” said Donal. “He was a priest who found himself in Rome from the mid-1920s. He was working for the Holy See. War broke out and he was perfectly placed to do something.”
The Vatican was neutral during World War II, and the clergy who resided there could have sat the whole period out in safety – but not the Monsignor.
“He got to know a lot of the ‘Who’s Who’ of Roman society. When the war broke out, he was well positioned to help people in need. It started very small, just a couple of soldiers, POWs who had escaped, housing them in safe houses.”
But from small acorns great oaks grow, and over time, he developed an elaborate network of safehouses, hiding escaped POWs, Jews, antifascists and others from the Gestapo. When the war ended, he was credited with saving the lives of 6,500 people.
Donal Courtney spent 14 months researching this play and was inspired to do so principally because he grew up 30 yards from Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty’s house in Killarney. Although he knew nothing about him in school, Donal’s grandfather actually made suits for the Monsignor, so their families are linked in more ways than one. Today, in Killarney, a memorial society is now active, dedicated to preserving the memory and legacy of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty.
Donal has another claim to fame, of sorts, as the man who introduced Michael Fassbender to the world of acting. He was credited hugely by the German-Irish actor as being ‘more responsible than anyone’ for his introduction to drama and the incredible success he has had as an actor when the star was interviewed by Ryan Tubridy ahead of a special staging of ‘God Has No Country’ in Killarney in 2017. On Michael Fassbender, Donal had this to say: “Michael had that presence, that charisma. He had it from day one. He also had a strong work ethic, and that’s what struck me most … Michael is the same guy he was when I first met him. He hasn’t changed.”
For tickets to ‘God Has No Country’, contact 098 28459 or www.westporttheatre.com.