The Heelers Diaries

the fantasy world of ireland's greatest living poet

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Location: Kilcullen (Phone 087 7790766), County Kildare, Ireland

Sunday, April 23, 2017

the first clue i ignored that donald trump might win the american presidential election

Halloween with the Sanchez family in Boston USA.
They were taking their son out trick or treating.
The child was not dressed as a conventional ghost or ghoul.
He was dressed as Donald Trump complete with dramatic orange hair style and sharp suit. He had worked up a few passingly amusing Donald Trump impressions to go with the ensemble.
The family had planned to call on their friends Robert and Erica who live up the street.
I knew Robert and Erica vaguely as a wealthy hardworking couple who like everyone else in Massuchusetts I presumed to be congenital demmycrats.
The Sanchez family bid me farewell and left me with my best friend the TV.
I love Mary Tyler Moore and I want to have her babies.
They returned in a flurry about five minutes later.
"What's wrong?" I blurted.
"Robert and Erica are Trump supporters," explained Mrs Sanchez soberly.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

review

O'CASEY'S PLOUGH AND THE STARS AT KILCULLEN THEATRE

"Wirra Wirra and Musha Now, it's a new drama production, and we'll all be kilt shurely sorr before the noight is out, begorrah and bejabers," throught I when I heard of plans to bring Sean O'Casey's perennially wearisome greatest hit The Plough And The Stars to our dulcet hometown.
The Plough And The Stars is a sort of melodramatic comawlya set during the 1916 Rising and written in a stodgey stagey oirishness that like this review would be easier to understand if it had been writtten in ancient Egyptian.
Awful drekkkkk.
I mean I don't want to go casting no apsoyshuns.
An attempt to purchase the rights last year had floundered to my delight when the owners of the play refused to release it to our amateur drama group for the whole of 2016 in case it might detract from some appalling professional production elsewhere.
Unfortunately Director Mischa Fekete and his cohorts are made of stern stuff. They championed the project into this year and made it happen in spite of nay sayers like me, or to be more precise, in spite of for crying out loud have mercy please please please don't sayers like me.
The play is in a way a spectacle piece and presents many challenges for the modern producer, not the least of which is the difficulty of creating visual awe during the revolution scenes for an audience that is accustomed to million dollar cinematic special effects.
How does one move an audience that has been overdosed on sensation by atheism, drugs, porno and the internet?
Mr Fekete as director tackled the task of bringing O'Casey's version of the Easter Rising alive for a modern audience with the twin strategies of recruiting an all star cast and then pitching them at us from the middle of an extraordinarily complex and distinctively designed set.
Attention to detail is one of his hallmarks.
Nothing was left to chance.
Even minor characters like the splendidly apparelled looters played by Annie Shiffer and Caitriona Poufong, both clearly revelling in the mischievous opportunism of their roles, were woven seamlessly and precisely like jewels into the overall narrative. 
The effect of the set was to give many of the scenes an unusual poetic resonance just in visual terms alone.
I admit it grudgingly.
The set as much as the acting was a wizardly work of art.
At times it was like looking at beautiful sepia tinted photographs, with the interior scenes capturing the ghostly feel of a tavern from a hundred years ago and the exteriors managing to suggest the compressed tension of a tenement street in Dublin with the broad shabby cluttered mystic sweep of the city behind it.
Mr Fekete knows his actors and appears to have gone to great lengths to create a an almost mellifluous integration in their playing.
To my mind he had put as much work into the casting as he had into the set and the rehearsal schedule. In any play, initial casting is half the battle.
Esther Reddy gave a dynamic evocation of all the moods of the character Mrs Gogan, the gregarious tenament dweller who takes us from knockabout farce to brawling oaf to tragedy over the course of the drama.
Newcomer Wayne Donohue had a formidable job to do, as his character is juxtaposed continuously between characters played by veterans Maurice O'Mahony and Bernard Berney.
Let me put it this way.
Asking Wayne Donohue to play between those two would be like asking me to star in a film with Clint Eastwood and Michael Caine. Incidentally I think I would give Clint and Michael a run for their money and a few surprises besides.
Those who have seen Wayne Donohue's promising earlier performances with Eilis Philips' Junior Drama Group will not be so surprised that he managed to more than hold his own in his bouts of badinage with Mr O'Mahony and Mr Berney.
Not only that, I think he may have shown all of us a theatrical thing or two as his youthful precocious talent is morphing into skill before our eyes. He will go from strength to strength on the evidence of this outing.
Philip Cummins and Letitia Hanratty overcame much of my hostility towards the playwright's script by generating moments of powerful romanticism in their depictions.
I was concerned that Mr Cummins performance when the couple argue might become much too aggressive. He can play aggressivity as well as he plays congeniality. On the night I saw them play it, I was simply stunned by their artistry.
There are risks for the actors in some of the scripting. For instance at the height of the rebellion Mr Cummins and Ms Hanratty are reunited amid the rubble of a blazing city and their characters have a fraught, sometimes passionate, sometimes violent encounter, while a soldier appears to be bleeding to death behind them.
This in the wrong hands could become high farce. They made it work, under the rigorous eyes of their director no doubt, but work it did.
Mr Cummins early in the play sings to Ms Hanratty's character the song Nora, and provides in that moment of sensual togetherness the underlying dynamic which made the rest of the play compelling.
If an audience cares intensely about two central characters and believes in them, they will care about everything and follow you anywhere.
With regard to playwright O'Casey's penchant for pathos, you again won't know whether to laugh or cry when Brid Hernon Hoey's character is gut shot through a window, and takes about five minutes to expire. We are in dangerous dramatic territory in this scene. The character spends her last five minutes on earth complaining by the way. A modern cynical audience containing a few critics like myself, could burst out laughing as easily as they might feel the grief of it.
Brid Hernon Hoey though had somehow made us her own. Another piece of Fekete genius, this casting. Brid Hernon Hoey knows her Dubs. She knows how they talk, how they move, even how they breathe.
Before her untimely and lengthy demise she had a rather engaging fight scene in the pub with Esther Reddy, good girly action fighting whoarr, and the thing was a little masterpiece.
My only reservation aside from her double barelled second name which complicates my review and my life unnecessarily, was that Ms Hernon Hoey held an apparent bite on Ms Reddy's arm for rather a long time during the fight. I thought she'd have the arm off in another moment.
Later in the play Ms Hernon Hoey produced more superbly dramatic moments, her character evincing the most improbable and dangerous pro British sympathies with near devilish glee, repeatedly chanting "Choke the chicken," as the rebels are being wiped out in the ruins of a blazing city. I couldn't help feeling that some warm hearted humanitarian Rahman would have shot her in the first five minutes of the Rising. But realism is not Sean O'Casey's strong point. I wonder had he ever even met a Rah man.
Dick Dunphy as the bar tender was a gem. I watched him even when he had nothing to say. Ye olde compelling stage presence. He's never lost it.
John Martin as the street orator who may or may not be Padraic Pearse, inserted a fevered passion of the real into an evocation that was utterly striking.
"It is good for the world that such things should be done," proclaims Mr Martin's character speaking of World War One. "The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields."
This was one of the moments when I completely forgot my historical negative prejudice against the play as a whole.
I was swept away by the passion, the power of the invocation and the poignancy of what was being suggested.
And it all happened because of the inspired manner in which Mr Fekete had devised the presentation of the scenes with his street orator.
For we never actually see a plain view of the actor John Martin playing him.
We see only his shadow through a misted plate glass window.
Throughout the play, he remains plainly ever present and yet a mystery.
The shadow gestures and gesticulates while calling the city and the country to revolution.
The scenes with the orator are much discussed in any production of The Plough And The Stars. No one knows what to do with them. Every amateur and professional group stages them differently. The Abbey Theatre in Dublin in a recent version, had the orator's voice coming from a giant radio and we never saw anything of their actor playing him at all.
Mischa Fekete found a way to present the orator, and John Martin to play him, which provided a mesmeric poetic evocation of... I don't know... something... the phantoms of war I suppose... fame, fortune, glory, pipe dreams and destruction... it was all there in that shadow.
Sublime visual poetry.
The scene also contained an odd little resonance, an echo, an imagistic rhyme, with one of O'Casey's other plays which is actually called The Shadow Of They Gunman.
Was this deliberate or a happy accident?
I could have watched the shadow orate forever. In fact at the end of the show I muttered, not entirely in jest, to a friend: "I think they should have found a way to give that shadow a few more scenes."
The charismatic Roy Thompson and the newcomer Peter Roynane as two British soldiers, achieved an authentic, troubling, yet respectful and paradoxically sympathetic representation of their characters.
There was another of director Fekete's trademark visual poetry moments at the end of the play courtesy of these two, when Mr Thompson and Mr Roynane sat quietly in a room of the tenament building lately visited by death at their hands. I thought: Oh hold that moment forever, it's perfect. But Mr Thompson began to stir and shortly thereafter removed his army cap. I was frustrated by this action as I thought, ah they didn't want to waste the guy who's normally the leading man, so they have to show us Roy's face and now we lose the poetry.
But no. Director Fekete had more up his sleeve. Mr Thompson's character in a perfectly fluid and effortlessly achieved move, placed his cap over the muzzle of his gun and the two men began to sing a gentle sad song at twilight.
Tears would have flowed from a stone. Tears did flow. It was a magnificent moment.
Kevin O'Kelly played an efficient Citizen's Army Captain with ease and assurance.
Another find of the evening, possibly of the season, was twenty something youngster Susan Byrne who like Brid Hernon Hoey knows everything there is to know about the way true Dubliners speak, feel and act.
Her scenes with Bernard Berney charmed the audience and lifted the action from representationalism into reality.
There were some who said she was too pretty to play a prostitute but I did not agree. The whole notion of a girl who grows up in squalor and is somehow a rose among the thorns, is poignant and true, and this actress made it believable. When I saw her character, I thought of the Italian singer Fabrizio Di Andre's line: "Nothing grows in diamonds, but flowers grow in the mud." Then again I thought of the concept in British literature of the Venus De Mile End, an evocation of a beautiful girl who lives this sordid lifestyle and is still somehow plaintively exquisite.
That was Susan Byrne's playing in The Plough And The Stars. Plaintively exquisite.
Aisling Finnegan and Rebecca Walsh took turns playing the part of a child dying from consumption. Their playing was sensitive, natural, and assured.
I couldn't help thinking that the consumptive death visited on the children's character was that which the modern day scoundrels of Independent Newspapers, the Irish Times, RTE, and their allies in the atheistic, political and legal pseudo elites of what passes for high society in modern Ireland, are endeavouring to recycle and reinterpret a hundred years later in our own era as an indictment of the Catholic Church. I ask you.
Iarlaith Behan gave a good solid convincing performance as an Irish Volunteer in the heat of battle dealing with the looming spectre of the death of a comrade. He kept the drama real at what might otherwise have been a mawkishly sentimental moment. (O'Casey has at least five of them in the play and the actors have to negotiate them like trip wires.)
Another gem like performance came late in the action from Philomena Breslin as the eponymous Woman From Rathmines who expects the rebels to abandon their fighting to help her get home.
I'm almost afraid to mention Maurice O'Mahony. This is after all a drama group that shoots back. I regret to inform you gentle readers that I liked him.
Maurice O'Mahony's layered playing gave us a quirky spirited depiction of the picaresque Uncle Peter. The actor had come out of his comfort zone and presented an interpretation unlike anything he's ever done before. Hence my unabashed enthusiasm. Mr O'Mahony gave his performance a wry richness combining the curious nostalgic romanticism of an Irish Don Quixote with the neurotic waspishness of an atypical crusty old Dublin curmudgeon. I think Sean O'Casey himself if he had seen Mr O'Mahony's playing might have been moved to remark: "There! That's it! That guy understands what I was trying to do!"
Bernard Berney was a merry compatriot in much Mr O'Mahony's capers and managed to do plenty of capering of his own in the role of Fluther.
The capering was neatly offset with his thoughtful, indeed artful, evocation of a character who is at once gregarious, silly, sly, vain and heroic.
Mr Berney as Fluther carried us into the world of 1916 and made it live for us.
He was not the best actor on stage. But I had the distinct impression that without him there would not have been anyone else there to see the show.
Genius lies in gaining the consent of an audience to imagine.
Or in casting someone who can gain that consent.
Which brings me back to director Mischa Fekete.
In a most rare and strange way, I sensed his presence as director everywhere in this play. For me he brooded like a spectre above the set pieces, the vignettes and the action.  In the poetic visuals. In the pathos. in the tragedy. In the comedy. In the selection of the actors and technical crew. In the way in which the actors had been let find their own equilibrium. In the wonderfully choreographed set changes. In the sets themselves.
The Plough And The Stars was Mischa Fekete's baby.
The brick bats and the kudos... are his.
Now my own confession.
Writing theatre reviews for the Bridge can be pressured business. Word has gotten out that I am an interesting fellow and truth be told, it does not come easy to me. I have to strive to be interesting. Normally I'm more like Sean Landers the magazine's travelogue correspondent who files copy from Taiwan. The real me is like Landers on one of his off days. Think brackish. Think ditch water. Think interminable. Think a tepid cup of tea. And then there's the constant expectation from my public to keep them guessing. Why, only last week former Drama Group Chairman John Coleman expressed himself thusly about my work: "Ah Heelers, you've chickened out. You're afraid to say anything about anyone anymore."
His remark seemed to refer to a brief storm in a tea cup two years ago when another of my reviews had provoked another of the Drama Group's now former Chairmen Eilis Phillips into a rhetorical letter writing canniptian over my critical parsing of actor Maurice O'Mahony's ineluctable modalities or some such thing.
Anyhoo.
John Coleman is of course as wrong about all this as he is about everything else. I wish he'd act in something again so I could show him how wrong. Left ham of the devil indeed.
Keep well gentle readers.
Someday we shall laugh again.

Friday, April 21, 2017

splashings

in the pool of evening
quick silver
ripples widening
forever

cold water thing
risen to exult
in some unthinking imagining
ordinary is wonder enough

what do fishes dream

Thursday, April 20, 2017

fortunes of war

Scanning the internet for life forms.
My eyes alight on a broadcast by Mr Cenk Uygur.
Cenk Uygur runs an opinion and commentary channel styled The Young Muslims.
He is a capable fellow and robust in debate.
Tonight he is happy.
Very happy.
Positively gleeful.
He appears to be having some sort of an orgasm live on air.
I listen to the words between the ululations of joy.
Presently it becomes clear that he is happy because a presenter at the Fox News television station has been fired.
The presenter is Bill O'Reilly.
As Cenk Uygur tells it, Bill O'Reilly has been fired because a woman, whom Cenk Uygur has never met and whose integrity he has no direct insight into, says Bill O'Reilly's behaviour towards her in the studio twenty years ago amounted to sexual harassment.
The firing of Bill O'Reilly seems like the happiest day of Cenk Uygur's life.
He is in paroxyms.
He is almost apoplectic.
His joy is unbounded.
Cenk Uygur has as per usual come to a conclusion based on a critical assessment of the available facts which is the exact opposite of the conclusion I would come to.
How strange.
No, not that he disagrees with me.
How strange for a man of Cenk Uygur's accomplishments to gloat because a rival has been fired.
How very very strange.
And perhaps a little bit undignified.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

fanfare

The goodness of God shines in all that he has made.
The mountains, the forests the oceans and the streams, proclaim his majesty and truth.
Every human being describes in their inmost heart some unique genius of the creator.
The universe would not have been complete without each one of us.
He made us for joy.
Creation is resplendent.
Oh Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one, one in three, eternal God, light of the world, light of souls.
Heaven is closer than we think.
God is here.
Wilderness and city alike proclaim him.
The animals evince his graciousness, his artistry, his wondrousness, his elan.
Languages are talismans of his glory.
For a moment listen.
He is calling you.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

centenary

(lines written after the performance of a musical drama at the national concert hall dublin in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 rising)

the seats are packed
with lawyers nurses teachers and civil servants too
young and old in finery bedecked
children swathed in scarlet and blue
whilest on the stage prancing charlatans sing
about the innate glory of 1916

there is something absent here
there is something hollow here
no smell of cordite sickens delicate nostrils
the cries of the dying are theatrical and do not offend the ear
the bloodstains are artistically daubed
no bullet kills
for reality must not intrude
upon our valedictorean interlude

besuited ronald sits with coiffeured maisie
and pats her lily ass
oh darling he sighs elevated
i do so love the working class

i wish a gawping rahman would come
lurching down the stalls
with his gun drawn
and pick out one of them
he'd shoot them in the knees or in the bawls
for some perceived insult to his republc
or some mild inconveniencing
of the drug dealing child abusing people trafficking
heroic
i
r
a
let the besuited coiffeured ones look on
at the tortures they are celebrating in song

i really do wish it might come to pass
that these would know real blood and death and tears
then there would be no more twee jingles about the pseudo heroism of the working class
to mock the spattered corpses of the disappeared

Monday, April 17, 2017

last days in the fuhrer bunker

(extracted from the memoirs of Fritz Vilhof second assistant file clerk at the Reichskanzlei)

The Fuhrer was becoming increasingly agitated as the tides of war turned against Germany. The glory days when he'd first sent the Pansies into Poland against the express wishes of Guderian and the Army General Staff who would have preferred to use tanks, seemed long past. Hitler had rightly guessed that the macho Poles were deeply insecure about their sexual orientation and would flee at the first sight of waves of effeminate looking men in lederhosen bursting through their borders. The General Staff never quite recovered their equilibrium on being wrong about such a matter. And the Fuhrer taunted them mercilessly about it at every opportunity. But by 1945 this was all in the dead past. We now knew that the Fuhrer's grip on reality was fading. He insisted on naming the winter offensive in the west against Patton's Third Army, Operation Snuggle Butt Tailies. Even the most optimistic among us felt that this was a bad sign. Von Runstedt threatened to resign over the name. He said the Allies would die laughing. Hitler just gave him a knowing wink and said: "Exactly." Von Runstedt did not like being winked at by a man but there was nothing he could do since it was the Fuhrer himself who had done it. Officers of the Wehrmacht often tried to keep themselves aloof from members of the Nazi Party and so they felt being winked at or being compelled to risk their lives in an attack called Operation Snuggle Butt Tailies, was a personal jibe at them. Nor did they like the Fuhrer's insistence on controlling every aspect of strategic planning. Heinrici was appalled by the famous March Twelfth Directive which instructed all Germans of whatever age group and gender to "just run at the British." Other Wehrmacht officers were similarly discommoded by the infamous "Say Boo And Drop An Anvil On Them," Order Of Battle with which they had been expected to repel the D Day landings. Many senior officers stopped coming to meetings at the Fuhrer Bunker and made excuses about being prevented from reaching Berlin by sudden RAF bombings or fuel shortages or not having anything to wear or headaches or needing to wash their hair. Relations between senior staff officers became strained particularly when Von Klug did a Sieg Heil and hit Goebbels in the eye. Von Klug claimed it was an accident but Goebbels was not so sure. Goebbels flinched every time he met Von Klug in the corridor for weeks afterwards. There had been hints of this sort of tension at the High Command for years. But it had not gotten so bad since perhaps the withdrawal against the Fuhrer's direct orders of Kampfgruppe Steinervortzel from the Kursk Salient in 43. In the Russian theatre there were to be many indicators that Hitler was no longer the master strategist. He had called one of our winter campaigns Operation Uranus and nobody knew for sure if he meant the planet or a bum. Himmler ever the opportunist, responded to each new name by cringing and saying: "That's an excellent name Mein Fuhrer." Many of us found his behaviour gauche in the extreme. Guderian also was increasingly alienated from the war effort after travelling overnight from Frankfurt by armoured train for a conference at the Fuhrer Bunker and being unable to get served any food on the train except soggy wienerschnitzel sandwiches. In March of 1945, the Fuhrer began pronouncing his English sentences correctly. He would say: "The cat sat on the mat," instead of the more usual: "Ze cat sat on ze mat," and "We are all doomed," instead of "Vee are all doomed," and so on. The final Russian attack on Berlin came as something of a relief to most of us in the end.