So Saturday was the most theatrical day of of my life. When you are a touch disorganised – as I tend to be, then gentle melodrama is a constant, low-humming background noise to ordinary, everyday situations. And you hope that it doesn’t erupt too often.
Yesterday was full on dramatic histrionics however.
It started with ‘Eirebrushed’ in the Players Theatre in Trinity – a venue that I had never been in previously. It’s good to finally know the location, as I will be performing there in June – I’ve gotten a small role as a bad-tempered Ukrainian roadsweep in a new play being staged by my group.
Back to ‘Eirebrushed’ – well I was front of house, sternly co-ordinating the movement of people from ticket desk to seat – a perilous journey of five metres – and collecting stubs. All was going swimmingly until five minutes before curtains up came a directive from backstage – ‘The baby goes or the show doesn’t start’. Ten minutes earlier a couple had arrived with their one year old son. They were very pleasant and the baby was a cutie. They sat at the back row. And baby did what babies tend to do – he started whining and crying.
Now the volunteers were struck by The Fear – what were we supposed to do? Could it be illegal to ask people with a baby to leave? What if they refused to leave if we asked? We didn’t know. The venue manager rang the organiser who say we’d need to ask them to leave the auditorium as the cast were threatening mutiny. The four volunteers looked at each other in terror – to whom would this enviable task fall to. I briefly contemplated falling to the ground clutching my angle, screaming, and pretending that I broke it en route to the theatre, but that the pain was only hitting me now. I suspect I might not have been believed. The venue manager took the bull by the horns and entered. The couple were very sweet and apologetic about the whole thing.
I had been a little contemptuous of the cast for its demands but when the show started I knew that they had been correct – the show starts loudly with a lot of banging – that would clearly have upset the baby even more, and if the family left in the middle of the opening scene it would have caused even more unnecessary disruption.
The play was fantastic – in the afterlife Patrick Pearse, Roger Casement, Elizabeth O’Farrell and Eva Gore Booth are looking at Ireland of 2016.
These people were all lesbian or gay – well there’s an element of doubt over Pearse, but those poems he wrote certainly indicate he wasn’t averse to a bit of man-on-man action. However their homosexuality was either erased from history (in the case of Pearse and Booth) or used as a means of discrediting them (Casement). Elizabeth O’Farrell was literally airbrushed from history – she is the person who travelled the gauntlet from the GPO to the British forces to surrender during the failed 1916 Rising. This she did – but she was told to go back and get a man to come and do the official surrender as it would be too shameful for Britain to accept a surrender from a mere woman. And she has been airbrushed from photos of the time.
She is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery – her gravestone paying tribute to her lifelong female partner.
It was an incredibly well acted, and very powerful piece, which is quite scathing about the aftermath of indepedence – where colonial rule was replaced by religious rule, and that there was no possibility of being cherished by the nation as an equal citizen if you were gay.
The second play was ‘Sacreligious’ – a very funny one man show about the St Pat’s for All Parade in Queens every year – which was formed as a direct consequence of the racism and homophobia of the official Fifth Avenue event.
That evening I had a night off from my volunteering duties and went to the Gate to see ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ by Edward Albee. I had seen the film of the play starring Liz and Dick several years ago, but had largely forgotten the details.
It’s the story of a drunken, angry, bitter middle-aged couple who arrive home from a party with a younger couple, where they continue drinking into the morning. They proceed to tear strips off each other – each trying to outdo the other in terms of viciousness and vindictiveness. The character of Martha was played by an actress who gave what I’d probably consider the best performance I’ve ever seen on stage.
She was a complete force of nature and gave a stunning performance. When she is berating her husband and calling him a failure, and a flabby flop, the sheer venom she is spitting is truly terrifying.
Standing ovations at the end. That must be some buzz.