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St Patrick’s day has come and gone and I haven’t yet reviewed an Irish short story as I had planned.

The story I read this week is “Irish Revel” by Edna O’Brien.  O’Brien was born in 1930 in county Clare.  Books were not well viewed in her family, especially if read by girls.  Although O’Brien trained as a pharmacist, she pursued her dream and became a writer.  O’Brien went against the path prescribed by her family and has often been banned in Ireland.  Since her first publication in 1960, O’Brien has become a respected and well-established writer. 

“Irish Revel” was originally published in 1969 in her first short story collection, The Love Object.  The story is that of Mary, 17, a country girl who lives up in the mountain.  For the first time, Mary is allowed to go to a party.  There, she is hoping to meet John Roland, a married English painter who stayed with her family two summers before and with whom she became enamoured.  However, once she arrives at the party, Mary is disillusioned as she is treated as barely more than a maid and is made fun of by the town girls.  As the small party gets going, the men there get increasingly drunk and boisterous.  Soon, Mary’s hopes and wishes are shattered and she realises she would have been better staying at home.

This story is typically Irish in its themes, but also evokes universal feelings of exclusion and alienation.  I found it painful: I felt for Mary, whose dreams of love and freedom are destroyed.  Mary has to face the reality of her world and maybe her illusions were preferable to that. 

O’Brien’s story reminds me of Joyce’s Dubliners with its painful epiphany and its description of Irish society as small-minded and driven by drink.  From what I have read about O’Brien’s life, it is reflective of the atmosphere in which she grew up, a suffocating atmosphere in which day-dreaming was the only means of escapism.

If you would like to read about more Irish short stories, visit The Reading Life where Mel U is holding an Irish Short Story Week.

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This week again I visited the Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork to see The Godot Company‘s production of three of Beckett’s short plays: Rough for Theatre I, Play and Not I.  People usually have a love or hate relationship with Beckett.  I love Beckett and Not I is one of my favourite plays.  This was just what I needed.  The extra treat was that the director, Sergio Amigo, and John Calder, a friend and publisher of Beckett, were there to introduce the plays and answer a few questions after the performance.

People often see Beckett as depressing and pessimistic.  I would argue that he is more realistic than anything else; the problem is that the reality of life is not the most pleasant and people generally do not like to face it.  If you actually look at his plays a bit more closely, you can see them as a celebration of human perseverance despite the grimness of human condition.  This is brilliantly illustrated by the blind man in Rough for Theatre I who, when asked why he does not let himself die, answers: “I’m not unhappy enough . . . unhappy, but not unhappy enough”.

Beckett was a strict stage director and his plays are actually still under copyright so that new productions have to follow his stage directions, which give indications on the slightest little detail such as lighting, movements and so on.  It thus does not leave much leeway for directors and actors to play with and interpretations can only be minimal.

As you might notice in the three plays here, Beckett’s protagonists are often crippled or incapacitated in one way or another.  They are also often people who need others to complement them.  The plays are thus relevant in today’s world where we live next to one another but are alone in the end. 

Language is another concern central in Beckett’s theatrical oeuvre.  Beckett, like many postmodernists saw language as inadequate to represent reality and as arbitrary.  His distrust for language can be seen in the way his plays got increasingly shorter and movements took precedence over language, but also in the imperfection of language to communicate: Beckett’s protagonists are often seen as delivering monologue rather than talking to each others.  His dialogues are also often humourous as a result of this discrepancy between language and reality he constantly tries to foreground.  I cannot help thinking of Winnie in Happy Days who keeps repeating “it’s a happy day!” while buried up to her neck. 

The lives of Beckett’s protagonists are like ours, weighed by the mundanity of life: one day after another getting us closer to the only certainty in life, death.  Yet, Beckett’s protagonists display endurance and still managed to get through the days.  Is it not the story of our lives?  As John Calder says: “He is writing about you”.

Rough for Theatre I was written in French in the late 1950’s.  It is about a blind street musician and a crippled in a wheelchair.  Their lives have no purpose any more, yet they keep on going and might find relief in the companionship their encounter brings.  They complement each other; however, their need for each other might be too overwhelming to find relief in such companionship.  It was a touching play and probably the most accessible of the three played that night.

Play is about a triangular love relationship.  Man, woman 1 and woman 2 are in urns, with only their heads appearing, and tell us the story of an affair twice.  It is fast-paced and there is no dialogue between them.  All their lines are prompted by a spot throwing a bright light on them.  During the questions and answers, the actresses explained how different it was for them to learn their parts as they could not interact with the other actors but had to deliver their lines at the right moment and perfect pace, without inflexions or facial expressions. 

This is the BBC version of Play, directed by Alan Rickman:

Not I is a monologue told by a female “Mouth” to an auditor in complete darkness, only Mouth is supposed to be lit by a spotlight.  It is a jumble of words delivered at a rapid pace and one can barely make any sense out of it.  Mouth tells the repressed unpleasant experience of this “tiny little girl”, insisting that it did not happen to her.  When Beckett produced this play, Billie Whitelaw played the role of Mouth.  However, Beckett suppressed the auditor, who wears a black robe and raises his hands in a gesture of impatience, for the stage performance as he thought that his presence did more harm than good to the play (see ubuweb).  I had actually forgotten about the auditor’s presence and was surprised to see him on stage.  His presence was distracting, particularly when he raised his arms in a gesture that did not seem like impatience. 

This is Billie Whitelaw’s performance: 

I have read The Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett, but as you might have understood from this post, the plays take another dimension when performed.  For instance, reading the words of Not I is nothing compared to watching it played; you need the pace of the delivery as it becomes so hypnotic.  It is not often that the shorter plays are produced; they are even less accessible than his other plays and Calder argued that, in them, Beckett tried to give only the essence and thus cut them to their bare minimum.  I certainly hope to see more in the future.

This is a link to a website dedicated to Beckett and offering many interesting resources.

As this week seemed to be Wilde-orientated, I decided to read his story “The Sphinx without a Secret”.  I had heard a lot about it and saw it reviewed recently (here and here), but had never got around to read it.  Now, it’s done!

I enjoyed this story by Oscar Wilde.  It is a story filled with suspense and mystery, yet, there seems to be nothing mysterious to it.

In a few words, the narrator meets his old friend, Lord Murchinson, who, he tells us, “would be the best of fellows, if he did not always speak the truth”.  The narrator notices the anxious look of Murchinson and suspects that some woman is involved.  He is right and soon Murchinson tells us the story of Lady Alroy, whose face on the photo is the one of “someone with a secret”.

As Murchinson recounts his encounter with Lady Alroy, he tells us that he was excited by her air of mystery.  As he begins a relationship with her, he indeed believes that she is hiding a secret from him.

The whole story revolves around this idea of mystery and secret.  The reader, like the narrator, gets worked up; we, too, want to know the secret.  However, we never learn it and although our narrator thinks that Lady Alroy is “a sphinx without a secret”, we, like Lord Murchinson, wonder…

It is a short and enjoyable story.  It is well crafted; Wilde builds the whole story around this idea of mystery and, if you pay attention, there are many clues that draw attention to secrecy, mystery and truth.  He is successful in getting us to expect a big revelation and leaves our thirst for discovery unsatisfied.  However, the story is satisfying as it is a pleasure to read.  Enjoy!

Short Story Monday is hosted by John at The Book Mine Set.

Salomey was a dancer, she did the hootchie kootch, And when she did the hoochie kootch, she didn’t wear very mooch (skipping rhyme quoted in Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood).

Who is Salomé?

I am not well versed in biblical studies, but, from what I have gathered, Salomé was the daughter of Herodias and stepdaughter of Herod.  It seems that on the occasion of Herod’s birthday, she danced for him and asked, to her mother’s request, the head of John the Baptist.  John the Baptist, who had announced Jesus’s coming, had been made prisoner by Herod because he had denounced his unlawful marriage to Herodias.  She thus stands as a Christian warning against dancing and female seduction.

This weekend, I read Salomé by Oscar Wilde (you can easily find an online version).  It is a short play, which was first written in French in 1891.  His version seems faithful to the original story of Salomé but emphasises even more Salomé’s seductiveness. 

Illustrations and photos for Wilde's Salomé (Tiger Books)

During the banquet given by Herod, the Young Syrian admires Salomé, while his friend is admiring the moon, which is compared to a woman.  The Young Syrian keeps looking at Salomé despite the warnings of his friend: “You must not look at her… Something terrible may happen.”  Both also notice how Herod is looking at Salomé.  Salomé then leaves the banquet because she cannot stand her stepfather looking at her constantly and joins them.  When she hears the voice of the prophet, Jokanaan, she asks to see him.  The two friends refuse.  However, Salomé, aware of her seductive power on the Young Syrian, convinces him.  She immediately falls in love with Jokanaan.  She is fickle in her tastes.  She first admires his body, but ,after his rejection of her because she is the “daughter of adultery”, she admires his hair and finally his mouth, which she wants to kiss: “Let me kiss thy mouth.”  This last remark brings the Young Syrian to kill himself. 

Beardsley's illustration for Wilde's Salomé (Tiger Books)

When Herod and his wife come out, Herodias keeps asking him to stop looking at her daughter.  Not paying attention, Herod begs Salomé to dance for him, offering her whatever she desires in exchange.  Salomé asks for Jokanaan’s head to the satisfaction of her mother, who felt insulted by Jokanaan’s words.  Salomé, still filled with desire for Jokanaan, kisses his head.  The play ends as Herod orders to have Salomé killed.

The way I see this play is as a critique of women’s vanity, fickleness and power of seduction.  However, there are some other meanings to it.  One could see it as a comment on religion, Judaism in particular, as the Jews keep having ridiculous arguments and never seem to agree with each others.

I do not find this play as enjoyable as Wilde’s other works.  I think it is not as entertaining and witty, although I smiled on a few occasions.  Maybe more research on it could help me to appreciate it?

I find Margaret Atwood’s take on Salomé in The Tent much more sarcastic and entertaining.  Atwood uses the story of Salomé and sets it up in our modern world.  The tone is that of gossip and the story becomes a kind of tv drama.

Atwood's own illustration for "Salomé Was a Dancer" (The Tent, 50)

In this little story entitled “Salomé Was a Dancer”, the narrator tells us how Salomé seduced her Religious Studies teacher because he gave her a bad mark.  According to the narrator, this is not surprising “with a mother like hers . . . Divorced, remarried, bracelets all up her arms and fake eyelashes out to here, and pushy as hell.”  Salomé started to do beauty contests and dance shows at an early age, as in the school play, when “Seven layers of cheesecloth was all she wore.”  Salomé also has a stepfather, a banker, who had “promised her a Porsche when she turned sixteen.” 

Salomé got caught with her teacher, there was a scandal, but the narrator suggests that the banker pulled a few strings and now the teacher has “grown a beard, looks like Jesus, crazy as a bedbug.  Lost his head completely.”  Atwood then gives an ending descent of this modern version of the depraved woman and by doing so expands on Wilde’s own version.

Atwood says that “strong myths never die”.  Indeed, in this modern version she revives the myth of Salomé and turns it into a satire of pop culture and our avidity for tv drama.

Although it seems that the story of Salomé occupies only a small part in the New Testament, she was not even named, the myth of the femme fatale she created has certainly taken bigger proportions.

You can also read Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “Salomé”, another modern take on the story.  There is also a short story by Flaubert called “Salomé”; I must try to dig it up.

“We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

This week, I went to see Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde, which was produced by the Everyman Theatre Company with Michael Twomey directing.  It was an enjoyable play.

The only work by Wilde I am familiar with is The Portrait of Dorian GrayLady Windermere’s Fan is set in the same 19th-century London society and it was great to see it in action.  Wilde’s play can be seen as a critique of this society who is highly concerned with class and keeping up the appearances and whose favourite pastime is gossip.

“although they never talk scandal, they – well, of course – they remark on it to everyone”

Everybody in London assumes that Lord Windermere is having an affair with Mrs Erlynne, except his own wife.  On her birthday, the affair is revealed to her.  Despite her disbelief, Lady Windermere is forced to face this fact when she discovers that her husband has given large sums of money to Mrs Erlynne.  As Lord Windermere invites Mrs Erlynne to Lady Windermere’s birthday party, Lady Windermere decides to run away with Lord Darlington, her fervent admirer.  However, she is stopped by Mrs Erlynne, whose past is a secret Lord Windermere wants to hide from his wife.  Although Lady Windermere never learns this secret, she is convinced by Mrs Erlynne of her husband’s innocence.  Most importantly, she discovers that the world is not divided between good and bad people.

Although the beginning was a bit slow, everything contributed to a plot that was intriguing.  There were many twists and not a minute of boredom.  Many moments in the play were hilarious, such as when the Duchess (Ronnie O’Shaughnessy) reveals the affair to Lady Windermere (Rose Donovan) and begins rambling about men:

 “And they never grow any better. Men become old, but they never become good.”

One of my favourite moments was in act three, when the five men wittingly discuss women and their society.  It was full of repartee and humour and was particularly well acted.

“Oh! gossip is charming! History is merely gossip. But scandal is gossip made tedious by morality. Now, I never moralise. A man who moralises is usually a hypocrite, and a woman who moralises is invariably plain. There is nothing in the whole world so unbecoming to a woman as a Nonconformist conscience. And most women know it, I’m glad to say.”

The play reflects on issues such as love and marriage, good and bad, vanity and pleasure.  Lady Windermere, who is the epitome of innocence at the beginning of the play, discovers that you cannot divide the world between good and bad people, that there is a bit of both in each of us.

I thought the acting was good.  Vanessa Hyde was particularly impressive in the role of Mrs Erlynne.  I also enjoyed the performance of Caroline Murphy.  She plays a minor role as Lady Agatha and does not speak many lines, but her attitude as the Duchess’ docile daughter was well enacted.

Overall, it was an entertaining evening.

I had planned to write this review on Thursday as it was the day of the Epiphany and I thought it would be appropriate, but unfortunately I did not have the energy to do so.

This is the second time I read Dubliners and I have appreciated it more this time.  I think this is partly due to the fact that I have now lived longer in Ireland and am more aware of certain Irish issues.  Dubliners is a difficult collection because of all its references to Irish politics and culture, religion in particular.  And because these are short stories written in a style of “scrupulous meanness” (a term coined by Joyce), those references are sometimes quite obscure, thus the amount of footnotes to explain them, which make the reading process more difficult (for instance, some will tell you that such a street is part of an upper-class area).  To be honest, I did not read them all and have probably missed on some levels of meaning and interpretation.  I am not feeling guilty about it because, at least, I enjoyed reading the stories, most of them anyway.

The collection is divided into four sections: childhood, youth, maturity and public life.  The last story, “The Dead”, is usually excluded from this division and is often seen as Joyce’s step towards longer works of wider scope.  All stories are about people living in Dublin and their misery (in one way of another); yet, if I am not mistaken, Dublin is not named once but referred to by the names of street and landmarks.

One of the themes I enjoy most is the relation the characters have with their native country.  Many of the characters dream of escape (from the mundanity of the Dublin life), but are tied to their country for various reasons.  I enjoyed discussing this with my students.  It is something still prominent in Ireland: Irish people tend to moan about life in Ireland and want to leave, but as soon as they have set foot on foreign ground, they go looking for the nearest Irish pub; their heart is still in their native country and quite often they return home.  This tension is palpable in Dubliners and is probably mostly felt in those moments of epiphany (moments of realisation), a term that has become associated with this collection.

For instance, in the story “A Little Cloud”, Little Chandler meets an old friend of his.  They use to study in the same place and would have thus had the same opportunities in life.  They did not follow the same path: Little Chandler remained in Ireland while Gallaher escaped and went to live a life of adventures in London and other fashionable places in Europe.  During their encounter, it is obvious that Little Chandler looks up to Gallaher and envies his life of adventures and freedom; however, he soon realises that Gallaher is showing off and tries to bring to the fore the fact that his own life is a success: he has a job, a wife and a kid.  When going back home, it is a harsh return to reality.  His wife is annoyed with him because he did not bring back tea (the nagging wife?), she goes to the shop and leaves him with their sleeping baby.  He sees a picture of her:

“He looked coldly into the eyes of the photograph and they answered coldly.  Certainly they were pretty and the face itself was pretty.  But he found something mean in it.  Why was it so unconscious and lady-like?  The composure of the eyes irritated him.  They repelled him and defied him: there was no passion in them, no rapture.  He thought of what Gallaher had said about rich Jewesses.  Those dark Oriental eyes, he thought, how full they are of passion, of voluptuous longing! . . . Why had he married the eyes in the photograph?”

He then considers the rest of his house with negativity and wonders if it is too late for him to escape.  The child wakes up and starts crying, his shouting at him to stop increases the screaming, until his wife comes home.  She blames him for making the child cry, thus making Little Chandler feel even worse about himself:

“Little Chandler felt his cheeks suffused with shame and he stood back out of the lamplight.  He listened while the paroxysm of the child’s sobbing grew less and less; and tears of remorse started to his eyes.”

This is how the story ends.  I found this story painfully sad.  It was actually physical and, at times, I was reticent about starting another story as I was dreading what I would read in it.  These are not light-hearted stories.

Melody at Fingers & Prose recently reviewed this collection and was disappointed.  She came to the conclusion that she did not feel connected to the stories.  I can understand that and I think this might be because they revolve so much around Dublin life at the beginning of the century and focus on types from the “submerged populations” as Frank O’Connor would say.  On the other hand, most of my students liked them and felt connected.  As for me, I enjoyed many for them for the reasons I have mentioned.  I think they are well-written, but they are hard work and this can be off-putting at times.

I also discussed “The Sisters” and “An Encounter” in a previous post.

Yesterday was St Stephen’s day.  This is probably the busiest day, after St Patrick’s day, for pubs in Ireland.  After spending a whole day eating turkey at home, the Irish need to go back to the pub to celebrate amongst friends.  Many people are back home for the Christmas holiday and St Stephen’s day is the occasion for meeting at your local those you have not seen for a year.

Instead of going to the pub as I could not face a crowded bar, I read a story from a collection I received at Christmas: Great Irish Drinking Stories.  A section of this book is dedicated to pub stories and I thought one of them would be appropriate for the day. 

Indeed, in “The Heat of the Sun” by Seán Ó’Faoláin, Johnny is back home on a week leave and after briefly visiting his parents rushes to his local,where he expects Alfie, the barman, to fill him in on the recent gossip.

“Why couldn’t they understand that when you cabled, ‘Coming home Thursday stop love stop Johnny,’ it meant you wanted to see them okay, and you were bringing presents for them, okay, but what you were really seeing was the gleam of the bottles, and the wet mahogany, and the slow, floating layers of smoke, shoulders pushing, hands shooting, everybody talking at the top of his voice to be heard and old Alfie grinning at you like an ape.  God Almighty!  When a fellow has only seven lousy days’ shore leave…”

It is often told of Ó’Faoláin that he writes about ordinary people.  Indeed, this passage reveals what most Irish person coming home feels like doing, even nowadays.  Social life in Ireland revolves around the pub and this story captures life around the pub accurately.  Moreover, the beginning of the story is told in the second person and it increases this feeling that the character of the story could indeed be you.

However, when he gets to the pub, Johnny is disappointed not to see Alfie behind the bar.  The barman is integral part of a pub and there is a sense of Johnny being lost when he does not see Alfie.  He has to wait for his friends to arrive to discover that Alfie is in hospital dying of cancer.  The second part of the story takes us to Alfie’s soon-to-be widow’s house where the group of friends go to bring her a few drinks to comfort her.  She knows them through stories her husband might have told her and they know of her, although she had never really been a reality for them.  This part of the story focuses on her sorrow, despite the fact that her and Alfie were separated, and reveals her loneliness.

I think that this story gives a strong feeling of pub life in Ireland and the shift of focus onto Alfie’s wife reveals the two sides of the barman: his public versus his private self.  The first part though is difficult to follow as it alternates between the present and general scenes that might happen in the pub, between dialogue and narration.  It is a good story in the way it captures the characters’ feelings and Irish life, but I would not rave about it.  I must admit that I found this story a bit boring.

Literary Blog Hop

 

The Literary Blog Hop is a fortnightly event held at The Blue Bookcase prompting book bloggers to answer a question.

What literary title (fiction or non-fiction) do you love that has been under-appreciated?  We all know about the latest Dan Brown, and James Patterson isn’t hurting for publicity.  What quiet masterpiece do you want more readers to know?

When I saw this question, I thought it would be easy to answer.  It isn’t!  It is so difficult to judge the attention books receive and, of course, it varies with countries.  For instance, an Irish book might receive attention in Ireland, but not worldwide.

The first book I would name is If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino.  I do not know what kind of recognition this book has received.  I studied it as part of a course, but I had never heard of it before and when I talk to people, few have heard of it, so I believe it did not receive that much.  I think it is a great novel, which is a perfect example of metafiction.  I personally love it and would recommend it to anyone who likes stories that are not all tied-up.  It is confusing and dizzying.  I reviewed it a while ago here.

The second novel I want to mention is John McGahern‘s That They May Face the Rising Sun.  McGahern is better known for his novel Amongst Women and I think that, even in Ireland, That They May Face the Rising Sun has been under-appreciated, probably because of the success Amongst Women received.  Many have told me that you can only appreciate That They May Face the Rising Sun if you were born and raised in Ireland.  I agree that the book might take on another dimension if you are familiar with Irish history and culture, but I believe that it also speaks of universal experiences.  It is a book set in the Irish countryside, which follows the lives of country people at the pace of the seasons.  It brought me back to my youth when I used to spend all my holidays at the farm.  It is beautifully written and describes simple human emotions.  Its concern with change in rural Ireland is one that has happened in other countries and could touch anyone.  I love this book and I would urge you to read it; it’s my favourite Irish book, I think.  I read it a while ago and feel that it is too late now to do a review, but I would be happy if this post encouraged one of you to read it and, one day, to see a review of it on one of your blogs….

I went to see a production of Dancing at Lughnasa, Brian Friel’s play, by the Second Age at the Everyman Palace Theatre.  This is the second Friel’s play I have seen and I actually preferred Lovers, which I found more poignant.  However, the show was a full two and half hours of good entertainment. 

This is another of those Irish plays I was discussing in a previous post and one can get sick of those typical Irish themes being overly dealt with.  Yet, I thought that those themes were not in your face.  The play evokes the Ireland of the mid 1930’s but in a subtle manner.

The story is that of a grown-up man, Michael, who remembers the summer of 1936; that summer when his mother and her four spinster sisters were dancing to the sound of their first wireless radio, when Father Jack, his uncle, had just come back from spending years in Uganda and was finding it difficult to reacclimatise to Western society and the Catholic religion of which he is a representative.  This was also the last summer when the family was reunited and his father (who never married his mother) came to visit twice, thus allowing him to witness the happiness of his mother.

Although the play has as its background the poverty of living in the countryside in Donegal, it does not focus on these issues but depicts how the five sisters make everyday life enjoyable.  There are some sad revelations during the play, but it never delves on them.  It is an enjoyable play, which is well acted.  I particularly liked Father Jack, but all five sisters were also admirable, each in their own way.  I also liked the way Michael, the little boy, did not appear in the play, except as a grown up man narrating the story and speaking the few lines necessary for his presence as a boy, thus making him stand as an observer rather than as a participant of that summer of 1936.

This play was made into a film, but I think the play is more successful, the personality of each protagonist being more accentuated in the play.  Here is the trailer of the film:

The last theatre review I posted was two years ago.  Since, I have been to see a good few plays.  I am one of those lucky students who get fantastic reductions at the Everyman Palace theatre in Cork, so I do not hesitate to book a ticket and go to see what’s going on behind the curtain.  As a result, I have seen some plays I have liked and some I have liked a bit less…  Each time, I am full of good intentions about writing a post about it, but then I’m thinking: “I can’t write about this play without first writing about the one I’ve previously seen”.  Thus, I don’t write at all.  I know it’s ridiculous, and let’s face it, I will never catch up, so I have decided to break the cycle.

The next play I went to see after Waiting for Godot was One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I had never seen the film, nor read the book, so I did not have that feeling that the play had let me down.  I thought it was a good and entertaining show.  This play was produced by an American company, the Keegan Theatre, which, I have since learnt, comes back every year on an Irish tour.  They seem to be specialised in American classics (as you would expect) and the following year they came back with Of Mice and Men.  Now, I have read the book but I found the adaptation quite powerful and I must admit to shedding a tear.  This year they brought to stage a play written by Sam Sheppard, Fool for Love, and it was also very good.  There is something about seeing the same company playing a few times, as if you get to meet old friends…

Most of the plays produced in the Everyman are Irish; they can be classics, by Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel and John B. Keane for instance, as well as contemporary plays.  I think that apart from the three American plays discussed above, the only non-Irish play I saw was The Caretaker by Harold Pinter.  I was so much looking forward to it, but I was a bit disappointed.  It was kind of slow and, although I enjoyed it while watching it, it has not left an impression on me.  I remember it, but only vaguely.

The biggest surprise was At Swim-Two-Birds, an adaptation of Flann O’Brien’s metafictional novel.  I was really intrigued about how they would put that on stage and was impressed at how well it work.  It was a great show and the actors were fantastic.

The Colleen Bawn, a play by Dion Boucicault and classic of Irish literature, comes as close second.  The acting was great and it was enjoyable to see a play I had read take life.  It was funny and sad at the same time and the protagonists were true to how they had been written.  The play is based on a true story; unfortunately the denouement was not as happy in reality.

The biggest disappointment was Penelope by Enda Walsh.  I am sorry to say I did not get his interpretation of The Odyssey.  I was quite excited to see a revision of this myth as I very much enjoyed reading The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood and I thought it would be interesting to see another perspective.  His focus is on the suitors, just before the return of Odysseus.  It has been somewhat modernised and they are in an empty swimming pool eating the last of the food and drinking the last of the alcohol, knowing that these are their last days since they have all had the same dream of Odysseus’s return.  It could work, but it did not, not for me anyway.  I could not see what Walsh was getting at and there were too many lengths.  I have the script a maybe if one day I decide to read it I will get something out of it.

I will not go into the rest of the plays; they were all very Irish-focused and some worked better than other; some were actually really enjoyable, while others where a bit tedious (that Irish theme tends to be overly done sometimes).

Tomorrow, I am going to see another of these Irish classics: Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel.  I will report back…

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