THE PARTING GLASS


Ray Yeates as Eoin

A new play by Dermot Bolger, premiered by Axis in June 2010

Where were you the night that Thierry Henry broke our hearts? In text messages from home, Irish fans in Stade de France discovered that their suspicions were true, that it was two flicks of his left hand that ended their World Cup dreams.

From this moment in Ireland's recent turbulent history, Dermot Bolger has crafted THE PARTING GLASS, a standalone sequel to his classic play 'In High Germany', set during Euro '88 which has been staged around the world.

Bolger teamed up once again with axis Director Ray Yeates for the world première of THE PARTING GLASS at axis Ballymun on June 1st. In 1998, as Artistic Director of The Chelsea Playhouse in New York, Ray Yeates appeared 'In High Germany' garnering the praise of New York critics for his performance. Since his return to Ireland, Yeates has directed Dermot Bolger's Ballymun Trilogy for axis. He took to the stage once more to perform in THE PARTING GLASS, completing a journey from off-Broadway to Ballymun, and back again to New York with the play's transfer in July to PS 122, as part of the Underground Zero Festival.

The play was directed by Mark O'Brien, Arts Development Manager at axis with the production design by Robert Ballagh who designed the original Gate Theatre production of 'In High Germany'

THE PARTING GLASS is set on the infamous night when Thierry Henry caused Ireland's exit from this year's World Cup. Henry's sleight of hand is used by Bolger as a metaphor for the speedy deception experienced by people in Ireland in these post boom years. After emigrating to Germany to find work during the 80's, Eoin made a new life for himself with the help of his wife Frieda and son Dieter. He returned to Ireland at the height of the boom, and just in time for the bust. "Where Dorset Street has become so posh that all the women have turned blonde . and the girls buying John Player Blue at Hardwick Street flats have a different pair of pyjamas to wear to the shops every day".

Whilst 'In High Germany' captured the pre-Celtic Tiger mood of a generation forced to emigrate out of economic necessity, twenty years on, in THE PARTING GLASS, Dermot Bolger holds up a mirror to highlight a recurrent pattern of emigration emerging amongst Ireland's present generation - a cycle we thought we had banished forever.

Dermot Bolger infuses THE PARTING GLASS with humour and mischievous Dublin wit. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, Bolger sweeps his audience along with a poignant and moving monologue, delivered with great fun and tenderness by actor Ray Yeates. A powerful, passionate and funny meditation on the state of Eoin mid-life and Ireland mid-bust, THE PARTING GLASS leaves no target untouched in a searing interrogation of friendship, family and Anglo Irish Bank shares.

The Parting Glass successfully premièred in axis, Ballymun, before touring to the Eigse Carlow Arts Festival, The Mill Theatre in Dundrum, The Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray, The Junction Festival in Clonmel, The Civic Theatre in Tallaght and the undergroundzero Festival, PS 122, in New York. The Parting Glass returns to play AXIS Ballymun from Wednesday November 24h to Saturday Nov 27th 2010.

For more information or inquiries please contact the axis programme manager Niamh NiChonchubhair at niamh.nic@axis-ballymun.ie

 

AUTHOR'S NOTE

Bill Shankley famously remarked that football was not a matter of life and death: it was more important. I think he meant that great sporting moments - like moments of great passion or great art - manage to briefly suspend life and death; they make us forget our everyday concerns and become caught up in a drama where, in that moment, quite literally nothing else exists.

Like the moment - fifteen years before - when a nation literally held their breath before the delirium of David O'Leary's successful penalty kick, Thierry Henry's deliberate handball - which cheated Ireland out of a place in this year's World Cup finals - was a moments when almost every Irish person (in Ireland or abroad) shared a collective experience. We may not have all found Jesus in that moment, but he certainly got mentioned a lot in dispatches.

But if Irish people were left with a sense of feeling cheated, then Thierry Henry was only a bit player in the collective sense that we have been massively robbed: robbed of jobs, robbed of hope, robbed of our children's future by a self-regulated elite of bankers, developers and politicians. And not only robbed, but herded into a collective hysteria where people were panicked into buying over-priced property in a suburban sprawl that started in Dublin and ended with apartments perched on stilts in Galway Bay.

In a 1990 play, In High Germany, for the Gate Theatre I used the metaphor of football to explore the lives of three economic migrants forced to leave Ireland. Set in Germany during Euro 88 (where they share a terrace for the last time) it was narrated by Eoin; a twenty-nine-year-old Irishman who - after Ireland are knocked out by a dodgy Dutch goal - finds himself returning not to his old life in Ireland but to a new life in Hamburg, with a son about to grow up with Irish cheekbones and a Germany accent, bewildered by his father's life.

Patrick Kavanagh once noted the observation of Marcus Aurelius that, while he grew old, the people on the Appian Way remained the same pleasant age of twenty-four on average. Playwrights likewise occasionally despair that, while they go prematurely bald, their earlier alter-egos on stage are played by a succession of young men who never seem to age.

Now twenty years on, I have rescued Eoin from the limbo of eternally being twenty-nine and allowed his heart to be broken anew by the cheating hand of Thierry Henry in this play that explores the past two decades of his life and his son's life in the context of the social changes in Ireland in that time.

He is suddenly as old as his author, though thankfully not as follicly challenged. He may be fictional, but he is facing the questions that are now confronting every parent in Ireland.

Dermot Bolger,
April 2010

 

PRESS REVIEWS

Irish Times, 4th June, 2010
CHRISTINE MADDEN
Axis, Ballymun

The Irish Everyman has a name, and it's Eoin. As the protagonist of Dermot Bolger's new play, The Parting Glass , he takes up where he left off in his previous appearance in Bolger's In High Germany , which premiered in 1990.

After years of living in Hamburg with his wife Frieda and son Dieter, Eoin moves the family back to the ould sod, prompted by the need to be close to his ageing and ailing mother, and his patriotic nostalgia. Nevertheless, a tragedy occurs, and Eoin has to reinvent himself, how he lives his life and how he is as a father.

Over time, the iconic presence of the Irish football team follows him all the way through like a green-jerseyed, rather clumsy but always comforting and stabilising guardian angel. Football punctuates the important turning points in his life, brings him closer to his mates - including his son - and offers succour and release in bleak times. This becomes more and more necessary as not only tragedy but also the demise of the Celtic Tiger forces him to his knees. The story and its elements are not unfamiliar, but their emotional genuineness makes them avoid cliché. Only rarely did the authenticity, verve and wit of this profound new work falter. Laddish on the surface, the play sensitively and perceptively used Eoin's story - full of football, departures, homecomings and love - to present a densely-layered portrait of the Irish male in the Noughties. Bolger does this without the script's becoming self-conscious and self-absorbed, maudlin, sentimental or superficial - a rare achievement.

Actor Ray Yeates delivers this monologue play with verve and excellent comic timing, punctuating pathos with wit, and vice versa. He summons up Hamburg, Ireland and Paris within the simplicity of a few rows of Dublin airport waiting lounge chairs - so recognisable and yet so indifferent, the interchangeable face of every airport. The play makes a variegated and eloquent comment on maleness, friendship and fatherhood, and every Eoin and his son should see it.

 

The Guardian, 6th July, 2010
Rating ****
Helen Meany

Football has been a gift to Irish playwrights in recent decades, with the snakes-and-ladders fortunes of the Irish soccer team providing ready-made melodrama. Metaphors of the national psyche have attached themselves to the game in a theatrical subgenre established, in part, by Dermot Bolger with his 1990 state-of-the-nation play, In High Germany. Twenty years later, he has revisited the central character, keeping football as the shaping force.

World Cup qualifying matches are more than a punctuation device for this one-man show: they give meaning to the life of Eoin and his two best friends who wholly identify with the Irish team. Now in his late 40s, Eoin meditates on his childhood, his exile in Hamburg, his homecoming to a city transformed by the boom and now dramatically returned to recession. The commentary on social and economic change becomes too direct at times, but for the most part, the layers of Bolger's text balance the polemical with the personal, skirting sentimentality.

Ray Yeates's versatile performance carries the audience with him, as Eoin reels from disorientation, loss and grief. Playing a range of characters, including his German wife and son, Yeates brings a manic energy to football fandom. Whether defeat on the pitch at "the hand of Thierry Henry" last November returned Ireland to comfortable victimhood, or signified a liberation from the Celtic Tiger's rhetoric of success, for Eoin the match marks "half-time" in his life, a point of self-renewal. He moves on, not with a "parting glass", but a toast to whatever is to come.

 

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