2020 Grateful 36: All about the orange juice

I’m beside myself with an enthusiasm I lost sight of about six weeks ago when the great stay-at-home started here in Hungary. Last night I sat through two hours of 11 incredible performances that wrung me dry. I feel a little like a tea-towel that’s been lobbed around a washing machine on a slow spin. There was a time when I’d have known the names of actors and playwrights plying their trade in Dublin. But that was a lifetime ago. I still recognise some names like Frank McGuinness and Deirdre Mollow but sadly, I’m not nearly as in the know as I used to be.

When himself moved to Ireland some 30 years ago, a neighbour of his from Alaska gave him $100 and told him to go see something in the Abbey Theatre for her. That was back when $100 bought something more than a set menu for two with a G&T for starters. The Abbey, like the Ha’penny Bridge, is an intricate part of the Dublin I knew back in the 80s, so when it announced four evenings of monologues to be broadcast live on YouTube, I signed up,

Last night was Part 1 of the Dear Ireland series.

Dear Ireland, commissioned by the Abbey as a rapid response to the coronavirus outbreak, is a set of 50 monologues created in self-isolation by 50 writers and 50 actors.

More than 3000 people watched online and made good use of the three-minute intervals between each piece to comment on what they’d just seen and how it had resonated with them.

There was no shortage of tears. Home, written by Owen McCafferty and performed by Patrick O’Kane, spoke to the dread every one of us living abroad feels about getting the phone call. I was in bits. Staying Alive – written by Carmel Winters and performed by Lucianne McEvoy – was written for every working mother out there. Both hilarious and painful, it captured life at home with the kids beautifully.  Zara Devlin’s performance of Enda Walsh’s Walk was mind-blowing. It reminded me of when I saw Cillian Murphy on stage in The Gate as Adam, in the Shape of Things. I came away knowing the world would be seeing more of him. Likewise with Zara Devlin. The line ‘I’m all about the orange juice’ is etched on my brain. Shower, written by Sarah Hanly and performed by Denise Gough, cut to the bone. A healthcare worker soon to go on shift wanting nothing but a shower is on the phone to a plumber while giving a running commentary on the drip. Inspired writing beautifully delivered, Deirdre Molly’s rendition of To Éire written by Felispeaks got me. The story of modern Ireland told between the lines of the Hail Mary. This was a gift as I’d not heard of Felispeaks before and will be looking him up.

We have heard disease take sound from markets before and feet from entire streets.
We’ve seen it snuff life from complete cities leaving nothing lit but stars and beggars.

Each writer chose the actor to fit their piece. Gina Moxley’s A Start, performed by Timmy Creed, really worked this well.  Marion Dywer’s depiction of Iseult Golden’s An Impossible Woman was perfectly cast. And Amanda Coogan’s signed performance of Shane O’Reilly’s Windowpane, a nod to Ireland’s vibrant deaf community, was stellar.

Dear Ireland I’m f**king riddled with anxiety! written by John Connors and performed by Graham Earley, captured the anxiety a lot of us are feeling. Dear Ireland (an unreliable ex-lover suddenly writes) written by Nancy Harris and performed by Marty Rea, again spoke to those of us living abroad. And Pints of Milk written by Frank McGuinness and performed by Joan Sheehy  – that one I’m still getting my head around.

But it was Deirdre Molly’s rendition of To Éire written by Felispeaks that really got me. The story of modern Ireland told between the lines of the Hail Mary.

We have heard disease take sound from markets before and feet from entire streets.
We’ve seen it snuff life from cities leaving nothing lit but stars and beggars.

This was a gift I’m grateful for* as I’d not heard of Felispeaks before and will be looking him up.

It’s a fantastic initiative. And it’s on for three more nights. It starts at 7.30 pm Irish time. 8.30 pm here in Hungary. Pause the Netflix. Close the book. Put a hold on the jigsaw. This is entertainment at its best.

If you missed Part 1, you can catch up in the next few hours.

*I started writing the Grateful series back in 2012, a weekly reflection on what I was grateful for that particular week. Eight years later, I’m still doing it. 

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