Top Boy's Lisa Dwan explains how loneliness has shaped her into the person she is today
"I would be dumbfounded by my own sadness of being so isolated."
In his 2009 article titled The End of Solitude, literary critic and essayist William Deresiewicz outlined our contemporary dilemma vividly: “The more we keep aloneness at bay, the less we are able to deal with it and the more terrifying it gets.”
But keeping it at bay when your career is heavy with the works of Samuel Beckett was never really a realistic proposal for Athlone's Lisa Dwan.
In fact, she credits Beckett with having a profound impact on her life, not just in her acting career, but also on a personal level after what was, at times, a difficult childhood.
“I was your typical lonely kid,” Dwan said on Ireland Unfiltered this week. “I was always a bit odd. As a result of being odd, I was badly bullied. That just makes you lonelier.
“I was that kid who didn’t have anyone to eat lunch with and so, I would just walk. My lunchtimes were walking. I’ve very strong memories of lunchtimes as a kid, looking down at my shoes and occasionally the shoelaces becoming blurred as I would be dumbfounded by my own sadness of being so isolated.”
Dwan, who is a star in the hit TV series Top Boy, is also renowned as one of the great interpreters of Beckett’s work and has recast the narrow narrative of how we view his work with her own take on the Irish bard.
New York Times chief theatre critic Ben Brantley has previously called her “an instrument of Beckett, in that way saints and martyrs are said to be instruments of God.”
But Dwan hasn’t just changed how we view Beckett; he also moulded her into the person she is today.
“One of the things about licking the ground of loneliness, which I have done, and I don’t say that lightly, but when you do Samuel Beckett’s work, eyeballing some of the really difficult aspects of life and reality and humanity, and you travel the world – which I did with the Beckett’s for years on my own, waking up in a new place on the wrong time zone to call someone who might care – and eyeballing the deepest darkest aspects of humanity and human frailty.
“Or confronting our own impending death which we’re all just a breath away from but we so rarely talk about or face.
“I remember someone saying to me, ‘Beckett is a very cruel writer, it might be OK for him to describe the world in this way but the rest of us need our delusions,’ and she’s right. Beckett in particular gets us to confront these things.
“I did go to those depths of loneliness and often very much in quite frightening and fragile psychological states as a result. But it did liberate me from the fear of loneliness because I think I licked the bottom of my own loneliness, and it meant I wasn’t making decisions based on fear of loneliness.
“So I was kind of liberated from the fears and I found an enormous amount of joy and discovery in those places too.”