First of all, we decided to try HOME on Wellington Place which we'd been meaning to try for a while. We kept it simple, Sean having a burger and me trying the fishcake. It was lovely, really simple, informal and friendly. The service was speedy, the price was cheap and the food was tasty. What else could you ask for?
Then we were off to the Grand Opera House. As usual at a matinee, the place was full of school kids. This is always a risk you take if you choose to go to a matinee and sometimes it's a curse, at other times a blessing. Our seats in the stalls were right in the middle of two different sets of school kids, but we had nothing to worry about. Despite a bit of shuffling around and a laugh in an inappropriate place, they were exceptionally well behaved. They clearly knew the text as the anticipation in the air was obvious. Just before a particular character died, I heard a whispered 'This is the bit where she dies, I hope I don't cry' from a student sitting near me.
The Plough and the Stars itself was excellent. I didn't know the story at all, not having much interest in Irish literature until very recently. As always I am drawn to the historical context - the birth of Ireland as a nation and the effect on the people living at the time. While the romantics constructed their perfect rebellion and heroes were revered for their amplified deeds, the real people of Dublin were struggling through their lives with illness, poverty and pain. O'Casey centres on these people in his play; the heroes are not the republicans at the GPO but the real people such as Fluther Good and Bessie Burgess.
I found the performance a little slow to get going, perhaps lacking a little energy but this is natural at a matinee performance as the actors conserve their energy for a second 3 hour show. Frankie McCafferty was, for me the stand out performance; his Peter Flynn was engaging, comical and well rounded. I also enjoyed Gabrielle Reidy's Bessie, who has such pivotal character development throughout the play. The cast supported each other throughout and were a tight team on stage. The set was great, both functional and authentic and I loved the visual reminder of nationalism with the flags, but the scene changes and flying seemed clunky and unnecessary. The lighting at times seemed to intrude on the play and there were changes in lighting which distracted from the actors' performance. However small technical issues aside, the production was a great introduction to the Abbey's work and we have already booked to see The Picture of Dorian Grey at the Abbey in November.
Nice to catch up with 'A Bartender' Tony Flynn after the show as well, though he will always be the demon Mephistopheles to me...