I first read Paul Durcan's extraordinary collection of poems over 10 years ago, and once I had finished, immediately reread them again. They made me laugh out loud, they moved me to tears, they haunted my imagination. I realized that the huge attraction of the poems was their accessibility, and that Paul had achieved that accessibility by writing the poems in the voices of ordinary (and extraordinary) men and women. They speak directly to us, in their own distinctive ways, displaying all the passion, arrogance, vulnerability, humor, joy and sorrow that makes us human. It began to dawn on me that because of their style, they would lend themselves to performance, or at least to recital, in a more public space than my own living room.
Dearbhla Molloy and I have known each other for half a lifetime or more, and have worked together many times over the years, so I called her and asked if she had heard of Paul Durcan's work. It turned out that Dearbhla was a huge fan, who possessed and had read everything he'd ever published, and was extremely knowledgeable about that particular collection. We both agreed the work deserved a wider audience, and thus, with Paul's blessing, the idea of Give Me Your Hand as a performance was born. We rehearsed in each other's houses, we stood enthralled in front of those magnificent paintings in the National Gallery in London, with Paul Durcan's vivid imagination demanding we look at them anew. It took quite a long time for us to carry this child of Paul's imagination to full term. One or other of us would suddenly get a job, and the project would enter limbo until we were free again, but finally it was given its first performance in London in 2010. We are delighted to share it now with audiences in Washington, New York, and of course Chicago.