Yeats Besotted

First Written for The Reviews Hub

Yeats Besotted – Bewley’s Café Theatre @ Powerscourt, Dublin

Writer: Cathal Quinn
Director: Cathal Quinn


“Poets should never marry. The world should thank me for not marrying you.”

William Butler Yeats is a man who in Ireland needs little introduction. Even decades after his death the slightest new titbit or revelation generates a buzz of media interest and his writing is taught to every Irish student. His place as one of Ireland’s literary greats assured. With this in mind how best for a playwright to get to the heart of the man? To navigate through the wealth of analysis and study to find the man behind it all?

Yeats Besotted attempts this by dramatising the turbulent relationship between the Nobel Laureate and his greatest love and muse, Maud Gonne. Religion, politics, the occult and the difficult birth of the Irish Free State are all touched upon in Yeats Besotted, however, the focus remains on the love affair between Yeats and Gonne. The pair first met in 1889 when she approached him to seek his support against tenant evictions. Yeats found himself instantly in love, besotted, and from this point onwards she acts as his poetic muse political inspiration. Throughout the play are poems in English and Irish that were written for or inspired by his love for Gonne.

When we are first introduced to Yeats, very capably played by Philip Judge, he is arguing for the legalisation of divorce in the Seanad. Here he is not just a poet but also a politician. There is a suggestion that runs throughout Yeats Besotted that Gonne was also the spark behind much of Yeats political ideas and beliefs. On a whistle-stop tour through their relationship from 1889 to 1928 Gonne is a constant in Yeats life, even as she goes on to marry another. In the rapidly changing Irish political landscape of the first decades of the 20th Century will there be room for an unconventional love story such as theirs? Or will their pasts and love prove too controversial for 1920s Ireland?

Yeats Besotted is a lovely short play that entertains and intrigues in equal measure. It is important to note that prior knowledge of the protagonists is not needed due to the capability of Quinn’s script and the universalism of the plays key themes. With luck, Yeats Besotted will in time become a longer production that can further investigate this unique relationship that had a profound effect on the work and reputations of two of Ireland’s greatest figures.

Honest

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Honest – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, Dublin

Writer: DC Moore
Director: David Horan
Reviewer: Laura Marriott

Is honesty always the best policy?

Meet Dave. A frustrated civil servant surrounded by bureaucratic incompetence and hypocrisy. We step into Dave’s life as he seems to be entering some sort of existential crisis. Lying, he argues, is a part of life and it is only the less pleasant or caring who are always honest. After all, who really wants to be given the brutal truth all of the time? However, on this night Dave finds he no longer has it in him to keep telling the lies that are needed to not rock the boat. This new found inability to lie causes havoc on a work night out as he looks around him with bewilderment at the events around him. After a conversation with his boss in which he is more truthful than is advisable he embarks on a quest through the dark corners of inner London before finding himself in a suburban garden.

The one-man play is carried excellently by performer Kevin Murphy. His strong Welsh accent rises and falls as he takes you through one emotional night. The audience starts laughing early on in the play and continues right until the surprisingly deep ending that punches through the barrier between performer and audience member. Dave’s working life in the civil services provides a rich vein of humour. This move towards complete honesty means that he is not always the most attractive of characters; however, Murphy softens him, making him fully rounded and recognisable. Murphy fits this part perfectly and he carries the audience with him on this late night expedition. The theatre is cosy and brings audience members into the eye line of the actor. It feels intimate. It is very easy to get lost in the action as the time whizzes by before landing on a surprisingly powerful and touching final note.

Honest is a 45-minute lunchtime show but is probably one of the best stage productions to hit Dublin this year.

Runs until 26 November 2016 | Image: Contributed

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

TDFF: To Hell in a Handbag

First Written for The Reviews Hub

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Writers: Helen Norton and Jonathan White

Reviewer: Laura Marriott

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from lack of imagination.” – Oscar Wilde

To Hell in a Handbag explores the, until now, secret lives of Canon Chasuble (Jonathan White) and Miss Prism (Helen Norton), two fringe characters from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Miss Prism is best known as the woman who accidentally left a baby behind in a railway cloakroom and left with a handwritten manuscript in a handbag. On the face of it Miss Prism is the image of a perfect governess and Canon Chasuble a respectable middle aged rector. Behind the image though they are living tempestuous lives full of negotiation, deception, false identity and black mail. And most importantly money. Both characters have fascinating and surprising back stories. The play is deeply funny. The one liners are excellent and well played; both Norton and White having a knack for timing and comedy.

The stage is small but well utilised. A desk covered with correspondence, a seat and small table hiding something medicinal! To Hell in a Handbag is set during and around the events of The Importance of Being Earnest. Lines from the play are heard over loudspeaker from time to time to move the action on and introduce the less well known characters to the audience. Both Norton and White are experienced actors having undertaken a wide variety of celebrated work on both stage and screen. This can be seen throughout as both actors show skill and nuance, playing each line to full effect.

The play does a good job of going behind the public face to the confusion and absurdity of the private life of this seemingly staid, proper Victorian pair. This is To Hell in a Handbag’s premiere so it will be interesting to see if it goes on to develop a life of its own as many previous shows developed in association with the popular ‘Show in a Bag’ initiative have. This year’s Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival has brought many new plays to the Dublin stage, giving both theatre makers and audiences the chance to experience something new and fresh. Good humoured and more than a little farcical To Hell in a Handbag follows in Wilde’s footsteps and creating an entertaining and comedic spectacle for all to enjoy.

Runs until 24 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: contributed.

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score: 4*

Key Word: Funny