Fiona Shaw at the Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2016

A Look Back: Fiona Shaw at the Fairway Galle Literary Festival

Fiona Shaw, known to the Potter fandom as Harry’s Aunt Petunia, celebrated her 59th birthday on July 10th. This talented Irish actress and director is a mix of class, wit and intellect.

Well known for her role as Mrs. Dursley in Harry Potter, Marnie in True Blood and in several leading Shakespearean drama’s, Shaw is eloquent and passionate about her work and her love for language.

Fiona Shaw (CBE) was a noted participant at the Fairway Galle Literary Festival 2016.

Her events included “Thinking Out Loud: Fiona Shaw on Shakespeare and Friends, Ibsen and Enemies” which took place at Hall de Galle, and “Tea and Poetry – a Poetry Reading: Fiona Shaw and Mona Arshi” which took place at Poonie’s Kitchen.

A festival-goer writes this about Fiona’s event …

“The absolute highlight to me, scintillating and gooseflesh producingly exhilarating was the session from 5.30 to 7.00 pm with Fiona Shaw on Shakespeare and Friends, Ibsen and Enemies where her theme was the use of language.”

“On the Thursday of the GLF, she came on stage smiling, dressed in the simplest but most dramatic of dresses – a straight A-line sleeveless and square-necked dark blue dress. She’s Irish and was made to speak English in school.”

“Some of what she said is quoted here: ‘Shakespeare is the Google of language; he invented words which were among the 40,000 used by him. He took language and made it plastic. He reinvented the metaphor. The structure of language he made physical; thought equals feeling; consonants represent the intellect, vowels feeling. The Globe Theatre was in the shape of a brain.’ About the later dramatists like Ibsen and Brecht: ‘The 17 Century saw the birth of neurosis. With Brecht the end result is gloomy and has terror; the play exists in the mind.'”
“More astonishing than what she said was what she did … A single woman dressed starkly simple transformed the stage to a theatre. She acted out several bits of Shakespeare and also spoke poetry from T S Eliot, mostly from the Wasteland. She so easily and accurately changed her accent, her tone, her diction and the way she stood or walked. Fiona Shaw was absolutely wonderful. What I said to my two friends was that she made the FGLF for me.”

Read the full review of the FGLF2016 on their blog: Ceylon-Ananda


Panchali Illankoon At Daily Mirror Life, got the chance to talk to the Irish actress and director about beginnings, tough times and her work over the years


P.I. How do you like Sri Lanka?

F.S. What I love about Sri Lanka is that it’s very much like Ireland. It’s a small compact country. Because of that I feel like I recognize the country and I absolutely love being here because we’ve been frozen and drowned in my country so it’s fantastic to be here. You have such immense beauty and I think the literary festival is another leap forward. I’m thrilled to be a part of this!

P.I. What was it like to get into the character of Aunt Petunia in Harry Potter?

F.S. She’s very described in the book and I enjoyed her so much. She’s so important in the book because without that springboard you would never get the magic. In a way I feel that magic is the revenge children take from adults and in that way the Dursleys represent the panic young people feel when they are in a home which is so prescribed. But I adored my character and I adored her little costumes!

P.I. Does it ever get tiring being recognized for Aunt Petunia?

I’m thrilled to be recognized and sometime when I get off at the airport and children go insane about Aunt Petunia and some get frightened and run to their moms. But it’s often children who have a ball with it. Sometimes I’m in the subway and I see a child look at me and they can’t believe their eyes so I give them a little wink and they get so frightened!

(Read Panchali Illankoon’s complete interview online at :


Did you know?

One of Fiona Shaw’s favorite books is, WAVE by Sonali Deraniyagala.

Wave by Fairway Galle Literary Festival Author Sonali Deraniyagala

“Astonishing memoir of the tsunami in 2004 when Sonali lost her husband, parents and children. She held on to a branch and lived. Thereafter it’s an amazing description of their happy life in London and Sri Lanka before they died. I was blown away by it”.
Fiona Shaw.


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