I had an amazing time in Ireland this weekend, but let me begin with the plays I saw at the beginning of the week. Tuesday, I saw Eigengrau at the Bush Theatre, which was extremely small and since I was sitting in the front row, the actors were only a foot away! It was fun to be so close, although I didn’t fall in love with the play. Susy, our theatre professor, had promised this play would make us uncomfortable and I’ll admit, it was quite shocking. Ha! But nothing made me want to shut my eyes or turn away; however, one of the audience members passed out twice and the show had to be stopped briefly so she could leave! The title Eigengrau stands for “intrinsic gray” in German and is described as the color seen by the eye in perfect darkness, fitting enough since one of the characters blinds herself at the end.
The four main characters include Cassie, a passionate feminist; her flatmate Rose, a woman who believes in true love, signs and fairy tales; Mark, a man obsessed with money and marketing; and Mark’s flatmate Tim, a lazy man who works at a chicken place. To cover the basics, there’s what I would call a love quadrangle. Although Mark fails to answer her calls and avoids her after a one night stand, Rose remains extraordinarily optimistic, believing she loves him and can win his heart. She is set on gaining a rich boyfriend because she’s short on money herself and cannot pay her bills, including the rent which begins to infuriate Cassie. Then Cassie meets Mark and immediately attacks him with her feminist beliefs; however, he eventually charms her and she becomes confused about what she wants. Well Mark ends up getting what he desires and Cassie seems content after deciding Mark must actually love her, but then she discovers he used the exact same charms on Rose. And let’s not forget lazy Tim, who loves Rose and tries to get her to come to the apartment by convincing her that Mark will be there. To sum it up, Rose and Cassie think they love Mark, Mark just loves sex and money, and Tim loves Rose. In the end, Rose is rejected and becomes insanely upset, causing her to gouge her eyes out with the heel of her shoe ! This results in Tim’s dream coming true as Rose permits him to take care of her. As for Cassie and Mark, Cassie gets pregnant and Mark leaves her. Quite a drama! The acting was good, especially the actress who played Rose; however, I wasn’t impressed with the story line because I found the plot unrealistic and associated it with a typical soap opera.
The following night I saw the Shakespeare play Measure for Measure, which is a darker comedy and some might define it as a tragedy. The main antagonist of the play is Angelo, who has been empowered by the Duke of Vienna to rule as he leaves to find out the cause of the moral decay throughout his land, disguising himself as a friar. After the Duke’s departure, Angelo immediately imposes strict punishment for moral misconduct, sentencing Claudio to death for having pre-marital sex with his fiancee. Claudio’s sister Isabella, a woman soon to be sworn in as a nun, asks Angelo to have mercy and her pleas arouse him. Angelo takes his power further by attempting to blackmail Isabella to sleep with him in order to save her brother; however, the Duke discovers the situation and devises a plan to bring down Angelo. In the end, Angelo unknowingly ends up sleeping with Marian, a woman he was engaged to until her dowry could not be provided. Despite his assumed success, Angelo orders for Claudio to be executed, but the Duke prevents this of course and Claudio lives. The play ends with a surprising proposal from the Duke to Isabella, who fails to respond to his request but looks away as if rejecting him.
Overall, I enjoyed the play and thought Ben Miles (the Duke) and Rory Kinnear (Angelo) portrayed their characters very well, but I didn’t like Anna Maxwell Martin’s (Isabella) performance. She is a wonderful, talented actress; however, I found her character too aggressive and masculine for her position as a nun. Having read the play beforehand, I envisioned a strong-willed woman with charms and a feminine countenance, but she was constantly shouting and her pleas sounded more like demands. She lowered herself to her knees often, which I found out of character considering her aggressive stance, but I enjoyed the insinuated refusal at the end of the play, considering I assumed she accepted the Duke’s hand when I read the text. Additionally, the set was amazing and there was a rotating stage which allowed for smooth scene changes.
Wow, those summaries ended being much longer than I intended! But I suppose some of you have already skipped down to this section to hear about Ireland and see the photos! So Meg and I began our journey by taking a bus at 1:00 am Friday, which was about an hour ride to the airport where our plane would take off at 6:30 am. So I dozed for a bit during the four-hour wait, but was too excited to get a significant amount of sleep. The flight took about 45 minutes and because we arrived so early, we had breakfast and waited around for a while until we could check into our hostel. Surprisingly, the hostel we stayed in was very clean and the staff was friendly and helpful so we lucked out! After locking our stuff away, we headed out into the city and walked around for a while before stopping at the Guinness Storehouse where we learned all about the making of beer. The historical information was very interesting and the top of the building had a 360° view of the city. In the evening, we experienced Dublin night life and discovered the friendliness of the Irish! Compared to London, Dublin is nearly its polar opposite as the people are very open and laid back in contrast to the private and reserved nature of the typical Londoner. They even walked about ten times slower! It was an adjustment to say the least, but I loved the atmosphere and hope to return someday.
While the city itself is interesting, it’s not near as lively as London, and I am glad we took the opportunity to see the countryside on a bus tour Saturday. Although it was a long day with us leaving at 8 am and returning at 7 pm, the trip was well worth it and the weather held up for the most part. Our first stop was in Glendalough (pronounced Glen-da-lock and meaning Glen of two lakes) which is a glacial valley in County Wicklow. The area was absolute beautiful as we walked along a path around the lakes, with an amazing mountainous backdrop that reminded me of Virginia. Then we hopped back on the bus and waited a half hour for some latecomers, two of whom finally showed up and the another two we actually left behind! The tour guide was extremely frustrated and said he never had to leave people before, but they eventually called someone on the bus and claimed they had misheard what time they were supposed to be back at the bus. There was another bus that would return to Dublin, but it wasn’t leaving Glendalough until 5 and we left before noon, so I’m not sure how they got back!
Once the bus started rolling again we drove for a while through the Wicklow mountains where scenes from Braveheart was filmed. The hills were beautifully green despite the fact that most of the trees were still bare and we saw hundreds of sheep! I’ll admit, I awed at every baby lamb I saw and there were lovely horses too. Eventually we stopped to stretch our legs at the Brownshill Dolmen, which is a single-chamber megalithic tomb dating back to prehistoric times and the largest dolmen in Europe. Its capstone weighs over 100 tonnes, which converts to 220,462 pounds! Essentially it’s a big rock, but impressive considering the prehistoric people were able to move something so heavy onto the smaller stones beneath it.
Our final stop was in Kilkenny, which is a small city with the main tourist attraction being Kilkenny Castle. We ate lunch there around 3 and wandered around until we had to get back on the bus at 4:30. From there, we took the less scenic route back to Dublin. We could still see the countryside, but the road was straight and more of a highway which would be a relief for anyone who is prone to motion sickness.
Sunday morning we headed for the coast to Howth, which was a small fishing village and we had the perfect day for it with a sunny sky and comfortable breeze. There was an elderly man playing the accordion which provided a wonderful background to the natural music of the swishing waves. After sucking in and savoring the fresh air, we had seafood for lunch and eventually headed back for our last night in Dublin. We ended up at a pub with really good live music, which happened to be performed by a really cute Irish guy!
Naturally, we were sad to depart on Monday and I didn’t have time to make it back to my homestay before the play that night! Although I was a bit travel weary, I loved London Assurance! The play’s first production was in 1841, so the actors were dressed in the appropriate costumes and as a comedy, their speeches were hilarious! As a quick overview, Sir Harcourt Courtly (Simon Russell Beale) visits the country to make Grace (Michelle Terry), who he has been told is rich and beautiful, his bride although she is young enough to be his child. He is impressed when he sees her; however, his son falls in love with Grace and fools his own father into believing he is someone else. Meanwhile, Lady Gay Spanker (Fiona Shaw) schemes with the son to charm Sir Harcourt Courtly, despite being married and having no interest in the man. Mark Addy, known for his role in the show Still Standing, played Grace’s uncle. The acting was magnificent and the play is my new favorite!
Hopefully I didn’t wear anyone out with the descriptions of the plays and Ireland, but I promise the next entry will be shorter!