Yesterday, I had the singular pleasure; no, I tell a lie. Possibly five or six singular pleasures, all rolled in to one singularly pleasurable Saturday in June. It all started off when I found that the Abbey Theatre was putting on a production of Tom Murphy’s play the House. Tom Murphy is the one playwright I know who understood the plight of the Irish emigrant on returning home for holidays in the 1950s and 60s and as I grew up with these men and worked with them, I understood their plight better than most. So I had to see this slightly revised version of his play bearing in mind that those days are long gone but the same conditions in Ireland apply. Last year as many people left Ireland as did each year in emigration’s heyday of the early 1950s and although 60 years apart the same reasons for emigration apply. The economic presence and future presence is fucked and cannot sustain its eager young folk.
So on a bright, rainy, breezy Saturday morning in the middle of the year 2012, myself and my spouse of many years standing and at the pleasure of the present Irish Government, who very kindly offered me a free travel permit last year on the occasion of the attainment of my seniority, took the 9.00 am train to Dublin. A short walk down to the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s national theatre, from Connolly Station put us in the presence of my daughter who was busy at her 10 hour shift in the box office. I have mentioned before how good I think the young front of house staff at this theatre are and how well they are trained in customer service by the senior management, which reflects well on all from Fiach MacConghail down, who have grasped this much needed concept and happily and willingly display it. Take Paddy , my daughter, a Honours Degree in English in her pocket from University College, Dublin, she is more than happy to spend her days helping out in all areas of the theatre, her chosen field of activity. I watched her proudly yesterday while I stood in the demanding box office queue, while she explained the arena and the ticket prices and the play to the overawed, overwhelmed and overaged potential customers at the Saturday matinee performance, which turned out to be a sell out. 500 tickets gone in the blink of an eye. By the way, Paddy, who has wanted to be imbued by the spirit of the theatre since she appeared in a school performance of God’s Spell when she was 13, is starring in two Pinter plays, The End of the Road and the Road to the End or some such names as those, at the New Theatre in Temple Bar from 7th to 13th of October this year. If you are in Dublin round that time try to pick up her performance. She is terribly good, though I say it myself and it will only be the dourness of Pinter that might detract from a lovely evening with a wonderful cast.
Anyway with tickets in hand and an hour to spare, we jumped on the Luas for a couple of stops and retired to a noodle bar for sustenance. let me explain the Luas to those of you unaware of the pleasures in Dublin. The Luas is the start of a massive tramway system in Dublin that will eventually and hopefully transform the traffic gridlock in Ireland’s first city. It is clean and quick and takes you to most places or will do when complete and to the likes of dotage me is free as the air I breath, thanks to the avuncular Irish Government. So after massive dollops of noodle and chilli, it was back to the Abbey for a cup of coffee to quench the fires of the aforesaid chilli and plenty of time to settle in to our handpicked seats selected by dutiful daughter.
Tom Murphy explains the dichotomy of the returning emigres, their wanting and need to be home in the land that nurtured them as children and youths, set off against the “favour” mentality that existed in Ireland. The unfairness of the system that unless you are related to, or know some body in the know, you had no chance of progressing in small town Ireland. That system is as much part of life in Ireland today as it was then and the reason so many young people leave in the hope of a fairer, more egalitarian society elsewhere. The play is long, split by a 10 minute interval during which we met a man and lady from Ohio who were gushing in their praise of the play. They had travelled from London, on reccommendation by a friend and were returning that evening. They told me they had just bought their tickets from a lovely young lady in the box office. My appreciation of all things Yank went up considerably.
The actors admirably led by Declan Conlon and particularly well supported by Cathy Belton, Lorcan Cranitch and Karl Sheils made the play move along at a cracking pace and before we knew it we were on the Luas back to Connolly for a luxurious couple of pints of Guinness in that disgustingly old fashioned Madigan’s bar at the station. We boarded the 7.00pm train for Boyle in the late June evening sunlight and jumped between more showers and brilliant sun as we tramped cross country on what I think is a lovely two and a half hour train ride home. Encouraged by the Chilli at lunch time I quickly cobbled up a chicken rogan josh which I washed down with a willing Rioja while I watched that miserable bastard, Andy Murray, eventually easily beat the sweaty Greek-Cypriot upstart, Marcos Baghdatis at third round Wimbledon. An end to a lovely day and a tired climb up the stairs to sleep the sleep of a well-content.
So anybody who reads this piece, you have still got two weeks to get yourself over to Dublin and watch this superb performance and any of you that has as many years as me, will find the concessions are fabulous. The box office telephone no. is 00353 187 87 222 from outside the country and speak to Paddy who will soon put you right. At least you now know somebody in the know to smooth your life from hereon in and do not forget they are doing Sean O’Casey’s masterpiece The Plough And the Stars from 26 July to the 15th September. Our seats are booked.