Thousands of years ago (meaning February 2020) before the hated Plague had restricted our lives so drastically, I visited Rome for the first time. While I was there, I took the FrecciaRossa hi-speed train service to Naples so I could travel to the outer edges of that city to see the archaeological site of Pompeii. This had been a dream of mine since the age of nine years old when I was taught about it in school. It fascinated me – the idea that a town was frozen in time after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius two thousand years ago. It exceeded my expectations. However, my regret was that it was a day trip – there was so much to see and do in Rome that I didn’t have time to explore the rest of Italy’s third largest city Naples. When my friend suggested an early autumn jaunt back to Naples, I was all over the idea like eczema. Flights were booked, accommodation sorted and on the 7th of October we travelled from Limerick to Dublin to begin our journey.
I felt very responsible. This being my twenty second foreign trip since the start of the pandemic meant that international travel was quite routine for me. My friend hadn’t travelled abroad since late 2019 (when we visited Ukraine) so was understandably nervous. I tried to place myself in her shoes. We’d work it out.
As I sat in Dublin Airport waiting to board my plane to Bergamo, I had a thought. If I’d checked travel dates when booking my foreign trips six months earlier, I wouldn’t have travelled to Naples one weekend, returned home, only to go back to southern Italy the following weekend. I’d have stayed in Italy. Sadly, this was only a thought, so there I was again – sitting in Departures, waiting to board a Ryanair flight.
Upon arrival in Bergamo I realised why my hotel was so cheap – it was out in the countryside – and as my flight landed at 10.30pm I had to take a taxi there – there being no public transport at that hour. The driver was a sleazy grifter. He didn’t look like one, but he changed forty euros for a five-kilometre trip. In these situations, it’s not worth arguing. I paid the money and swore not to take another taxi this holiday. Arising at 7.30 I started planning my return journey to Bergamo Airport for my 11.50am flight. Sipping a strong coffee, an awkward fact presented itself. It would be quicker to walk from my rural B&B than to take a bus. Also 40 euro cheaper than Uber was telling me the 5km journey would cost. It seems like I had misjudged by driver from the night before. This is after all the most expensive part of Italy. The early morning stroll to the airport was scenic and rustic until I reached the motorway. I could see the airport in the distance, but how to safely traverse six lanes of traffic. A kindly Italian farmer pointed me in the direction of an underpass (he saw me looking bewildered from his tractor). Onwards to Lecce.
*UPDATE* June 1st 2022 – the following post is from 2018. Last year for Pride, some male managers dressed up in drag – remotely. I shudder to think what this year will bring.
The rainbow flag fluttered proudly in the breeze as I approached the office. I entered the building. Someone had been busy overnight. The lobby was festooned with rainbow flags and balloons. Gay Pride had reached the Wastelands and my office was celebrating.
As the pandemic (or at least the lockdown) draws to a close, the theatre world is back with a vengeance. It was with great anticipation that I attended Chaplin’s Bar this evening, where in the upstairs space Judder Theatre is staging the one act play ‘The Great War’ by Neil LaBute.
Judder Theatre has been producing plays since 2018. After the two year plague, this is Judder’s first production since the world reopened. Originally its plays were staged in Doyles, before moving to its present home upstairs on Hawkins Street. The upstairs theatre is a comfortable and intimate space – the audience is like an observer in the room immersed in the action, rather than the distanced onlookers in a more traditional. For a play like ‘The Great War’ this is very effective.
The lights come up. A man and a woman emerge onto the stage and sit on the sofa. From the first words it is clear that this is a couple at war. Or to be more accurate, this is a soon to be ex-couple. In the process of obtaining a divorce they decide to bypass the lawyers for an evening, to decide among themselves, how to split the marital estate. There’s one, rather overwhelming problem however – they cannot stand the sight of each other. As they down hard liquor, barbs and insults are traded. They lament the nine years they have wasted on this broken relationship. Nothing is off limits. Bitterly condemning each other for squandering each other’s youth and beauty, neither seems ready to forgive or forget, using this meeting as yet another chance to tear a strip off each other.
It’s hilariously funny. Anyone who has endured a breakup will identify with the frustration and regret that is on display here – although perhaps not to the same vituperative effect.
To complicate matters, they have two children. How will the decisions they make on their future affect the boys? I won’t give any spoilers but what they reveal to each other about their thoughts and feelings isn’t precisely what the marriage guidance counsellor would consider mature or responsible.
The couple is played with relish by Gertrude Montgomery and Vincent Patrick. The onstage chemistry between them is electric – although you’d be in fear for them with the toxic atmosphere and brutal insults. Funny, sharp and with great timing they are a very effective couple in conflict.
Directed by Shaun Elebert this blackly comic play runs until Saturday at 6.30pm in Chaplin’s Bar on Hawkins Street.
In May 2008, Democratic Unionist Party MP Iris Robinson gave an interview to the Stephen Nolan radio show on BBC Northern Ireland. In it she expressed sorrow that a gay man had been beaten almost to death in a homophobic attack in Belfast. Homosexuality was still an ‘abomination’ to Iris however, but homosexuals like murderers could be forgiven by accepting Jesus. She had a lovely NHS psychiatrist, who worked with her who could help those suffering from the ‘abomination’ to be cured. To say that the interview caused a reaction is quite an understatement. Universally condemned for her religious and homophobic extremism, neither Iris or her political party backed down. Her party colleague Ian Paisley Junior (son of the Reverend Senior who in the early 1980s campaigned against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the north with the catchy slogan ‘Save Ulster from sodomy’) supported Robinson. Iris’ husband Peter Robinson – then the First Minister of Northern Ireland remained silent – possibly too busy shouting ‘No, no, no’, at any questions being posed to him.
She later stated in parliament that “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children” (although she later claimed that this direct quote had been misinterpreted. )
The BBC started doing some investigation into Mrs. Robinson’s background and in January 2010 a Spotlight documentary was released which revealed that throughout the previous year’s controversy, 60 year old Iris had been conducting an extra-marital affair (I’m assuming said affair was ‘torrid’) with a 19 year old named Kirk McCambley, and that she’d been using her political influence to get loans approved for him to open a cafe. Iris checked herself into a psychiatric unit and announced her retirement from public life.
The flight to Kiev from Dublin lasted 3.5 hours, and was a typical Ryanair experience. When you are trapped in the air for that length of time they can try the hard sell at their leisure. We were greeted at the airport by Vladimir – the representative of the letting agent whose apartment in city centre Kiev we were residing for the weekend. He drove us to our abode. It was 11pm. We needed a cocktail and headed to N::B Cocktail Bar (thanks to Google maps) which has to be the loveliest bar I have ever visited. It is just off the Maidan Nezalezhjnosti (Independence Square) and is a cosy yet luxurious and refined placed with the best signature cocktails on the planet.
On January 10th 2003 I was dancing on a podium in a nightclub, in the city of Melbourne, the state of Victoria, in the country of Australia. The tune that I was dancing to was the smash hit earworm of a song called ‘Asereje’ (or ‘The Ketchup Song’ for the anglophiles) by a trio of Spanish sisters, who formed a band called Las Ketchup. Needless to say their time in the spotlight was brief – but intense. This song was the biggest one-hit-wonder since ‘Macarena’. It had a moronic dance routine where you moved your hands, arms and hips in synchronicity with the tinny beat. I was in my twenties. I was on holidays, in the height of Australian summer with my friends from Ireland. We were in a gay club. Of course I knew the lyrics – not that there were many of those mind – and the routine. This…
Bottom Dog Theatre company from Limerick produced a show at the Belltable Theatre in Limerick in November 2019. It was called ‘A Wilde fan’. It is a one man show, written and performed by Limerick actor Myles Breen, and directed by Liam O’Brien. The plan I believe had been to tour the show around the country in the new year. Then came Covid…
Early in the pandemic the show was live-streamed from the Belltable and I attended that online show. I was impressed by the play – despite the obvious limitations of streaming any live theatre. With the pandemic hopefully nearing its conclusion; and with audience attendance now increased to 60% capacity; I was happy to revisit the show in its live form at the Draiocht Arts Centre in Blanchardstown last night.
Last weekend the Gaiety Theatre placed a very pointed post on social media, addressing the 50 strong audience for their Saturday matinee. It read ‘to the 50 people attending today’s matinee at the Gaiety, please allow extra time to travel as there are 24,000 people travelling to Croke Park for the hurling’. It spoke quite directly to the abandonment of the theatre and live music industry in comparison to the sports industry, by the state in the time of Covid. The Gaiety is one of Dublin’s oldest theatres, with a capacity of 1145 people. Permitting only 4% of a venue’s capacity to attend a show, when over 70% of the adult population is fully vaccinated seems excessively punitive. It could irreparable damage to live entertainment in this country.
Nevertheless I am making herculean efforts to attend whatever is on offer. To date this year I have attended ‘Cruise’ at the Duchess Theatre in London in May; ‘One Good Turn’ by Una McKevitt in the Abbey Theatre in June and ‘Rogue’ by Lee Coffey in Smock Alley Theatre. The London show was almost at capacity. The Irish shows operated at 10% capacity. Hardly ideal but it was still magical to be back in the audience in the dark, watching the shenanigans onstage.
In some welcome news I have acquired tickets to see another show in Smock Alley Theatre. I will be going to the Firedoor Theatre production of ‘God of carnage’ by Yasmina Reza in Smock Alley Theatre which is running from August 23rd to 28th.
Leaving the Viking Sheds Theatre in Clontarf on March 11th last year, having seen ‘Dirtbirds’ little did I realise that it would be fifteen months before I’d enter an Irish theatre again. The dry spell was broken yesterday evening when I attended ‘Rogue’ by Lee Coffey on the main stage of Smock Alley theatre. Performed by the graduating class of the Gaiety School of Acting, I was very curious. Having seen Coffey’s plays ‘In our veins’ and ‘Murder of crows’ in recent years, I know that he’s a talented playwright. The director for this show was Tracy Ryan (whose direction of ‘Iphegenia in Splott’ in Smock Alley some years ago was a powerhouse of piece.) Click button below for next page