The Drinking Habits Of Madigan, Glorious Corots, Vintage Oscar Wilde And A White Van Spoiled The Whole Thing
Fiona Graham writes from Dublin: There are for me three must do things in Dublin: a creamy pint of the dark stuff in Fitzgerald’s, just by O’Connell Bridge, then my favourite gallery in the whole wide world, the Hugh Lane, and just down the hill, The Gate Theatre.
So I arrive at Fitzgerald’s and Madigan is where I’m almost certain I left him three weeks ago. Same stool, same shirt and he’s about the same two thirds down the Guinness. The man in the corner is having a bet with himself against Celtic scoring more than three against whoever. Sad. They’ve already got four but no one thought to tell him. I buy him a pint and Madigan says that’s patronising. I offer to get the same for Madigan. He refuses. Dignity, he says, is never abandoned in this bar. Eamon pours him one anyway and Madigan pretends he hasn’t noticed. I love the ritual.
Madigan says he’ll walk across to the Hugh Lane Gallery with me and asks whether I knew that Hugh Lane himself perished when the Lusitania went down in World War I. I did know, but why would I tell him that. Madigan is a second cousin and drinks in The Goat. So we get to the The Hugh Lane, put a couple of euros in the box and look at the Corots and one Jack Yeats. The soul is revived. Never dare go to Dublin without going to the Hugh Lane. Understand? You are entering a very private moment in your heart when you do and that’s without looking at the Francis Bacons and his studio shipped from London after he died.
So down the hill and The Gate. They’re doing Patrick Mason’s A Woman of No Importance – early Oscar Wilde at early Oscar’s best. Madigan says I talk shite and leaves. In fact, I happen to know he’s got a hot date with a priest. They both read philosophy and grumble over Hegel every third Thursday in the month. And he says I talk shite!
So far so good. I’m not certain about me and Oscar Wilde. I’ve always thought he did nothing but turn sentences back to front and we all thought that was so clever. What is undoubtedly clever is what certain directors and certain theatres do with it. That’s what A Woman of No Importance is at The Gate here in the city. Somewhere I have a pamphlet note from my great, even great-great, grandpa about this one. It was the first play he ever saw. That was in 1893 at the Haymarket in London which was then run by the great actor-manager (astrakhan collar and all) H. Beerbohm Tree,who of course played Lord Illingworth. Cast of fifteen including Tree, Ernest Lawford (whom no one now remembers) and the so-delectable Julia Neilson as Hester Worsley played today in this production by the equally lovely, Aoibhín Garrihy.
The short description is a thumbed nose at the behaviour of the far too smart British set in the 1890s. Who loves who (or whom) and the statutory OMG the servant’s actually my long lost heir. Mason will forgive me. He makes it so much more than that and somehow makes us feel uneasy about the way we treat each other, even today. Mason makes Wilde so much better than was Wilde. Even Wilde’s spitefulness has reason but I leave being glad that I was there but not sure I would rush to recommend it to my friends – except Mason makes you feel privy to his directional notes. Worth a try.
Then came Friday. So what? So what is I get hit by a white van.
Now if you’re going to be whacked by a van let it be classy Knightsbridge green with gold lettering (or so my lawyer says). Me? A white van. I’d dropped in to see a friend. He’s a poet. A painter and a poet. What could be more peaceful. The sun’s out. I’m on the pavement outside the house. The van reverses. Bang! I’m underneath struggling for breath – maybe my last. Someone shouts at the driver. He stops. Somehow I’m still here. St Vincent’s Hospital is wonderful. They’re checking me out inside two minutes of arrival. The X-rays and so on. Ribs cracked. Knee smashed about inside. The rest of the body just hurts. Clearly God doesn’t want me yet. Wonder what Wilde would have made of it all. This is drama I can do without.
The officer at Irishtown Garda says God wasn’t ready for me. Madigan says he was off to a funeral when he heard and so couldn’t make it to the hospital. My poet was so sad and a small boy from seemingly nowhere in the assessment ward gave me a flower.
If you’re going to be white-vanned, do it in Dublin. But see the Hugh Lane and Mason’s Wilde first. Fitzgerald’s? That’s up to you but don’t be fooled by the old guy betting against himself.