April in Ireland, Under the Volcano

A wall near the Black Fort on Inishmór, Aran Islands

My first eight days  in Ireland were spent with my Parisian friends Phil and Natalie Chadie, travelling from Dublin up through and across Northern Ireland,then off to the West and the Aran Islands, before returning to Dublin.  With beautiful weather for the most part, we relentlessly stalked ruined abbeys, dolmens, ancient castles, ring-forts,  stone circles, passage tombs, high crosses, and round towers, among other relics from the Stone, Bronze, Celtic, and Early Christian epochs.  If this sounds like fun to you, then you’d want to read Peter Harbison. He’s the premier author on monuments from Irish antiquity, and a number of his books are available, some from our regular warehouse and publisher sources, and some from  out-of-print companies.  We’ve also benefited from our use of the Rough Guide for Ireland and of a Michelin map and Green Guide.

Arriving in Dublin last Thursday afternoon, we were surprised to hear news of the volcanic ash cloud.  I remained around Dublin, while Phil and Natalie rebooked and then went off to explore a few more counties.  They’ll finally take the ferry back to Cherbourg Wednesday morning.

There’s always too much to do in Dublin.  With friends I attended an evening of Brahms and Prokofiev at the National Concert Hall, with fine perform- nces by both the solo pianist and the conductor,  last-minute substitutes for the principals, who were stranded on the continent.

Oscar Wilde is receiving quite a bit of attention just now.  His The Picture of Dorian Gray is the selection for Dublin’s One Book One City program this year.  And Bewley’s Café Theatre at Bewley’s Oriental Café is presenting lunch- time performances of an adaptation of Wilde’s story The Birthday of the Infanta.  Among the entertainers brought in to please the petulant princess is a  dwarf , who believes his ecstatic woodland dance has caused the princess to fall in love with him.  Well, what but heartbreak can follow? The entire production, from set design to acting, was a pleasure.  I’ve rarely been disappointed by one of these Bewley productions. On stage and behind the scenes they  feature good newcomers and often some veteran Dublin talent.  The well-known actor- director Bairbre Ni Caoimh directed this one. The price is okay  (15 euros) and the soup is always good.

The other theatre I saw was presented at the Project Arts Centre, a one-man performance of two short prose pieces by Samuel Beckett adapted for the stage, here a simple, black-curtained space.  In The End, Conor Lovett, a seasoned Beckett actor,  played a man expelled from an institution to make his way alone.  In The Calmative, it seems  the same character who makes his way across his city, the landscape of which is both familiar and strange. Lovett caught the fear, the puzzlement, the vexation, and the occasional wonder of the man as he tried to explain his adventure.  It was often rewarding.  It was Beckett.  I could usually pay attention to it. Sometimes rapt.

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