The Irish playwright Brendan Behan once noted that while everyone else has a nationality, the Irish have a psychosis. Of course, if you delve deeply enough into any culture, the level of dysfunction reveals itself quite readily, but Irish writers tend to take a no-holds-barred approach to laying open the particular madness to which Irish culture can lay claim. In some ways, it’s refreshing to see a people so matter-of-fact about societal ills and cultural trappings, while so many other people pretend theirs don’t exist.
Last week I had the opportunity to catch a play called The Walworth Farce, by writer Enda Walsh. It’s been performed a few times in the past few years, both in Ireland and the US (and elsewhere), and has always been well-received. The story revolves around a father and his two sons, originally from Cork, who live in a dingy apartment in London (on Walworth Road). As it opens, there’s a bit of confusion as to what is happening, but quickly you realize that the characters are themselves acting out stories, taking on other characters, and possibly re-enacting past events. There’s a bit of hysterical absurdity, a lot of physical slapdashery, and a sense of deeper currents; within this story of a story, there’s possibly yet another story occurring.
So some things are laid out straight – the father is Dinny and he’s nostalgic for the auld country. The elder son, Blake, seems suited to taking on the female roles in the stories they are creating/re-enacting. The younger son, Sean, seems to be the only one to leave the apartment ever, every morning as he goes to Tesco to pick up groceries (which are apparently used as props in the story-within-the-story). As the play opens, this morning, Sean seems to have picked up the wrong bag of groceries, and the next two hours follow the slow devolution of the family as cracks appear in the facade. When Hayley, the checkout clerk at the Tesco, stops by, the rollercoaster continues its freefall into both chaos and tragic and painful truth-telling.
Now take all of this raw potential and channel into one of the finest acting families in Ireland – the Gleesons. Brendan Gleeson plays the father, and his own sons play Blake and Sean. It’s not only so very meta, it’s also a casting coup, and a brilliant decision all around. They are first of all excellent actors, but it’s discomfiting to watch a character who is violent towards his own children knowing that all of the actors are related. The whole thing is at times more real, and at times more absurd.
As an American, I’m fairly certain I missed a significant amount of the jokes, and the accents were sometimes difficult to follow as well. I’ll take the word of other viewers and critics that the play shines a critical lens on a number of issues current to Irish society – the nostalgia of the Irish abroad, dysfunctional families, money and all the troubles it brings, and many others. But one thing that really stood out for me was the fluidity of both the actors and the script in switching between the comedic and serious/tragic elements (something, I think, is well done in Irish literature). At times, the transition was so smooth that the audience was still laughing before realizing that an act of violence or a harsh comment was not part of the story being acted out, but actually occurring in “real life” for the family. Realizing this makes the production both more engaging and more disturbing.
As an aside, we saw the play on its last night. Proceeds for the show went to St Francis Hospice. We paid more for the tickets, but hospice is one of those causes where I just don’t think you can give enough. So it was an amazing opportunity to both be able to see this play and support an amazing cause.
(note: post title is a line from the play)
Brendan Gleeson and his sons Domhnall and Brian performed The Walworth Farce (a play by Enda Walsh) at the Olympia Theatre recently. Beautiful theatre, intense and gripping story, brilliant and engaging acting. Picture is post-show, during announcement of raffle winner. Proceeds from the raffle and tickets that night went to St Francis Hospice.
January was an up and down month. I had two big projects I needed to finish, and got both of those done, but to the detriment of other things I wanted to do this month (such as working out!). So it’s not been great with the goals, but here’s a check-in:
So for February, I’m going to focus on yoga, running, and getting back into weight lifting. I’m also going to look into knitting and learning to drive stick, as well as outline my novel idea.
I woke up this morning to some snow on the ground. It’s only on the sidewalk and pavement, so the contrast between the startlingly green grass (it is called the Emerald Isle, you know!) and the bright white powder on deep black asphalt is striking. In a few hours it will be gone of course, but in the meantime, the sky is suitably grey, and it all just looks so cold.
Three days ago I posted that I would try to blog at least once a day. And then I went two days without posting anything. I have an excuse of course – I was trying to meet a deadline, and then we went out for dinner, and drinks (found a cute new pub), and a movie. And then I spent some time with a friend yesterday and you know, the days just get away from you. But in any case, excuses are excuses, and in the end I didn’t do what I said I would do.
So then of course, I’m spending some time this morning making up for it with two posts. I love to write. I do. I have so many thoughts in my head, and most of them aren’t worth the time it takes to put them down, but every so often, there’s that one clear thought that needs to be expressed, but it hasn’t quite crystallized, and I think – write. this. down. Even just in the act of writing, thoughts can become clearer. Ideas can deepen. And maybe even new thoughts and ideas can emerge.
But I never do. Or maybe I put a piece of it on Facebook or Twitter, and then leave it there, like some half-formed thing, thinking I’ll take it up again at some distant point, clean it and polish it, or take it apart piece by piece to examine and perhaps reassemble into something that more closely resembles the seed from which the idea sprung. But mostly, it just dangles there, like that time you wanted to try sprouting lentils, and you put them in water in to soak, but you did something wrong (are you supposed to change the water every so often? refrigerate? add salt?), and they sprouted, but then kind of got stuck between the seed and sprout stages. Cute, and tasty, and it worked well enough, but not quite what you were going for. And ultimately they disappointed, because you just didn’t do what you should have done.
You’d think winter would be a good time for writing. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where the snow comes down regularly and cleanly, I suppose you’d spend more time outside. But when the days get shorter, the nights darker, the sun struggles to break through the clouds, and the wind, oh man, the wind is just cold here. Well, then you find it a bit cozier to be inside, turn on the heating, snuggle into a blanket, make some soup…. and write? Or not.
But it’s 2015 now, so time for new beginnings. Time to re-dedicate ourselves to all those things we meant to do last year, or five years ago, or maybe one day in the future, only the future is now, so this is it, this year I’m going. to. do. that. thing. And I’m going to start today.
Well, tomorrow, anyway. There’s still a small smattering of snow on the ground yet.
It’s no big secret that Irish weather is not for the faint of heart. But it’s been particularly hard to deal with the past few weeks, with constant clouds, rain, snow, sleet, hail, and the coldest, most biting wind ever. However, the past few days has brought a dry spell (and mostly sunny skies), which would normally be great news. Except, for reasons I am still trying sort out, the dry spell has coincided with water rationing. Continue reading
I’m blogging again. I’m fairly terrible at this. But when I was in Mongolia, I was mostly consistent about it, so think maybe I can be the same here. Mostly though, I’ve found tremendous value in reading other people’s blogs, and so perhaps one day my accounting of my experiences can be helpful to someone else. First up: a status update.
On March 11th, I flew to Ireland. A few weeks before that, I left my job (of approximately 10 years) and became an independent consultant (note: if anyone needs a global health writer, hit me up). I’m in Ireland to undertake the process to be with my partner of 3 years, and am having not only the very personal experience of transition, but also the possibly more stressful challenge of navigating the bureaucracy to establish myself as a legal resident.
There is a decent amount of information on the internet, and some very nice people have posted the steps they’ve taken to make this work. I’m hoping to emulate their processes (tailored to fit my circumstances of course) and have the same success.
The goal is a de facto relationship visa. It will give me permission to stay (and work) for a year at a time. It is not an easy process however, and the first step is just figuring out what we need to apply. Stay tuned….