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In Ireland: At The Abbey

'Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore
The rolling ship, and hear the tempest roar."
(Inscribed on the outside wall of the Mussenden Temple, Castlerock,
County Londonderry, Ireland)

Spring is a good time to travel and this past May I toured the misty Emerald Isle of Saints and Scholars otherwise known as Ireland. Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama both visited in May as well, so clearly I was onto something.


The diversity of rich culture and lush countryside is astounding. I crawled through the neolithic monument known as Newgrange, brushing past 5,000-year-old stone carvings. I toured West Belfast, taking a Black Taxi Tour that showed the peace lines (giant barrier walls), the murals and hot spots that made up "the Troubles". I climbed the hexagonal basalt columns of Giant's Causeway. I silently stood in the Mussenden Temple, high above the North Atlantic, under an inscription from Lucretius.

I frolicked through fields of bluebells and wild garlic. I counted thousands of sheep. I felt a hundred shades of green. I found heaven in a jar of apple clove jelly at a bed and breakfast on a farm in Bushmills. I devoured sausages and chocolates at the English Market in Cork. I ate the plumpest, freshest mussels washed down with Veuve Clicquot (merci, France) at Martin Shanahan's Fishy Fishy Cafe in Kinsale.


I sampled whiskeys and stouts and ciders from sea to sea. I drank buckets of hot, black tea. I walked the streets of Dublin in the day and the night, following the footsteps of James Joyce and his cane. I kissed the Blarney Stone. I made a friend in every town.


There were so many highlights on this journey, every moment was a delight, but a lifelong dream to see a play at the Abbey Theatre was finally realized and it met my every expectation times a million.

It was George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, and the first time this play has ever been produced at the Abbey. Twenty-two Shaw plays presented in the theatre since its foundation in 1904, but his most popular and famous work was premiering the week I arrived in Dublin. Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle, Colonel Pickering, Mrs. Pearce et al were being brought to life and I would be a witness. Kismet, baby.


I sat in the 7th row, center. A perfect view. The house lights went down and in the dark, my ears were immediately filled with the sounds of a rainy London street in 1913. I was there, in that world, and I never left until the intermission, which felt more like a pause in my suspension, not a break. The lighting design by Mick Hughes, the set design by Paul O'Mahony, the original music and sound design by Philip Stewart, the costume design by Peter O'Brien and the direction by Annabelle Comyn... these artists created seamless transitions and added story and depth and dimension that made the actors' job so much easier. It was a brilliant production from beginning to end and it made my heart skip and the tears well up in my eyes from the sheer joy of experiencing theatre in all its glory.


Living in Los Angeles means theatre is always the ugly step-sister to the Hollywood industrial machine so even the well-established and decently funded theatres can't hold a candle to this Abbey production. It was world class, the best of the best, containing a cast of actors with theatre and film and TV credits that go on for pages and pages. But most importantly, these actors and the production designers are mostly seasoned Abbey professionals, artists who are dedicated to their craft, their artform, their commitment to creating live performances that touch the souls of their audience. My husband had gone to the Abbey three years prior and saw a production of The Seafarer by Conor McPherson and his sentiments were similar to mine. It's 2 for 2 in his book.

Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature. George Bernard Shaw is a Nobel Laureate. The Abbey Theatre is a state-supported theatre. The history and the support certainly gives the Abbey and other European companies like it the opportunity to create supreme magic. They are lucky.

I saw an Irish play, performed by Irish actors in an Irish theatre in Dublin. It was special. It was sublime. It was a tempest roar. 

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©2011 Lia Beachy
©2011 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Lia Beachy is a writer and a Senior Writer and Columnist for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


Scene4 Magazine-inSight

July 2011

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Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

July 2011

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