An Irish Girl In Stratford II: The Berlin Decision, or What You Will

This is pretty much a post-Stratford update, if you will. I didn’t come back to Ireland with a broken or amputated leg, a curse having been put upon me by a vengeful gypsy, or having accidentally blown anything up, so by those standards the expedition went rather well. Stratford, as I’ve probably reiterated over the past few days to anyone who’s asked, is really quite lovely. In size, it’s comparable to Galway, and it’s remarkably easy to get around. It’s CLEAN too (it’s a tourist town, so I guess it has to be).  And having located the Shakespeare Bookshop and Waterstone’s, the place adequately fulfils The Bookshop Quota. So all that’s grand.

The main reason why I came over (other than checking out where I’m going to be living for the next year or so) was for the BritGrad conference at the Shakespeare Institute. The Institute host this conference every year, which is organised by graduate students, and allows graduate students to show off their work and get feedback. As well as that, they manage to bag rather amazing plenary speakers (and this year didn’t disappoint. You can listen to some of them here). Now, Galway is great for meeting drama folk, and I’ve met a lot of them through studying theatre and English or through Dramsoc. I love being able to sit in a café, a seminar, or anywhere around town or college to discuss theatre with those who care about it as much as I do. If there’s one thing I’ll miss about theatre-going in Galway, it’s going to see a performance and arguing about it afterwards with dear friends over tea in Java’s till the wee hours. But what Galway lacks is a proper contingent of Shakespeare heads, and that’s what BritGrad provided in spades. That’s not to say that Everyone In Galway Hates Shakespeare (there are a good few who love him too, including the dashing WordOtter), but it was a nice change to refer to Cymbeline by its proper name rather than as ‘a really obscure play of Shakespeare’s’. Hell, there was a fascinating paper on the play last weekend, which made reference to Maradona’s Hand of God.

what’s a Thierry Henry?

This was all in an institution where people shared the same enthusiasm for the same interests. And also the same infectious excitement as gosh golly, well Professor Whatsername IS GIVING A PLENARY TODAY. In short, it was just wonderful being around people who love Shakespeare as much as I do, and that’s why I’d encourage any postgraduate working in that area (or general early modern drama-ness) to get their tushies over there for next year’s conference. Ah you will. You will now. ‘Gwan. They’re all LOVELY.

An Inept Tourist’s Guide to Stratford-upon-Avon:

a) Shakespeare’s House and Gardens: I regretfully didn’t visit Hall’s Croft and the rest, but there’s a lovely exhibition (voiced by PATRICK STEWART and… some other actress who I can’t remember as I’m terrible at recognising voices) where you get to see a copy of the First Folio (another is in Oxford, and not even Katherine Duncan-Jones is allowed to touch it) and get to potter around in his digs for a bit. The best bit is seeing the performers outside, especially on a very sunny day.

b) The RSC: Pretty much goes without saying. I’d recommend Richard III at the Swan, by the way. And there is such a gorgeous green outside the theatres, with a huge scrum of folk relaxing underneath the trees or buying ice-creams off the boat vendors.

c) Holy Trinity Church: Where you can see Shakespeare’s grave, memorial, etc. I didn’t get a chance to go here, despite being advised to. I’m sure they won’t move it to Shelbyville before I return.

d) The Real Tea Café: Because it was cheaper than Anne Hathaway’s. Well, this *is* supposed to be an inept guide of sorts.

In other news: Double First Class Honours degree, howrya?

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An Irish Girl In Stratford

Shakespeare’s crib. It’s lovely.

Hello all! This is coming to you live from Stratford-upon-Avon, which is located god knows where in the Midlands of the United Kingdom. I could write reams about its loveliness, but I’ll try to process that after I leave. But yes, it really is quite beautiful, and I’m excited about moving over here permanently.

On a more home-based note, if you’re in Galway next week, be sure to get yourself out to see Red Kettle Theatre Company’s The Country Girls (adapted by Edna O’Brien from her own novel) in the Town Hall. It’s directed by the Very Lovely And Talented Mikel Murfi (who’s coming to this year’s Galway Arts Festival accompanied by Fishamble for The Great Goat Bubble), and among the strong cast is the Equally As Lovely And Talented Bob Kelly, who probably gives the funniest portrayal of a priest on stage this year. Having seen the show last week, I can assure you that it’s a very good show and, for the older wans in the audience, very nostalgic.

To revise: Stratford, lovely, Country Girls, Galway. More substantial writing next week or the week after.

This Is Not Leaving Cert Weather.

Greetings from the bowels of early June. It is the third day of the Junior and Leaving Cert examinations (for those not from Ireland, the Junior Cert are the exams you take in the middle of your illustrious secondary school career, and the Leaving Cert exams are taken before you enter college, or uni as I will have to start calling it soon enough) and I am lamenting the dearth of exam weather. WHAT GIVES.

My sister is currently sitting her LC, and yesterday heralded the onslaught of English Paper Two. Now, I take an interest in what comes up on that exam every year, mainly because it’s my favourite out of the two. Those of a writerly bent (Méabh, for one) always went for Paper One, as it allowed you to write diary entries and write short stories. My imagination sadly does not work that fast (I always went for the newspaper articles and letters to magazines), so I always relished Paper Two, i.e. getting to write about Shakespeare and Brian Friel and Jennifer Johnston and Eavan Boland and Derek Mahon and Sylvia Plath. Incidentally, over the years, Paper Two is the most contentious paper in the Leaving Cert cycle, mainly because of its Prescribed Poetry section. Eight poets are on the course, only four show up on the day. You could work around this due to the fact that there is always An Irish Poet and A Female Poet on the paper, but people still get caught. Yesterday saw a repeat of the 2010 Boland Controversy in the news that Sylvia Plath, widely tipped to appear this year, er, didn’t.

Plath: a shit-eating grin if ever I knew one

Mind you, the folk in my old secondary school were pinning their hopes upon Ireland’s Greatest Living Poet (for winning the Nobel Prize, for writing ‘Mid-Term Break’ and ‘Digging’, for giving a poetry reading for charity at NUIG which was notable for the fact that I played with a massive fluffy white cat afterwards), Seamus Heaney. He didn’t show either. The bastard.

Heaney: he’s got a meme now, you know

I guess we all should have seen it coming. Considering the fact that Adrienne Rich shuffled off this mortal coil earlier this year — and guess who was this year’s Token Female Poet? However, I never tire of this annual guessing game. Thousands of people, including yours truly, glue themselves to boards.ie and twitter just to find out which poets make it onto the paper, or whether people’s predictions come true (and judging by Eavan Boland’s continual absence, they tend not to sometimes). It just brings me back to 2008, and my own sitting of Paper Two. At first glance I was horrified by the Othello question, was stumped by the Comparative Study, and skipped Unseen Poetry (because hey, you’re supposed to do that LAST), but when I saw the most glorious question on Derek Mahon, almost plagiarised from the Mocks, I got an answer written in forty minutes. And besides, I got an A2 in the end. Happy endings do occur.

As of next week, I’m going to be in Stratford-upon-Avon for the annual Britgrad conference. I’m very excited to be going over there for the first time, as well as checking out the Shakespeare Institute too. But I’m sad that I won’t be there when my sister completes her final LC exam. She’s worked incredibly hard all year, and I’m proud of her.

On a final note, I leave you with this. It is ‘proper good’, as they say: