Yeats Besotted – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review by Frank L.
Apr 03 – 22, 2017 | 1pm (doors at 12.50pm)
Yeats Besotted – Written and Directed by Cathal Quinn
Unrequited love is likely to lead to behaviour which is less than rational. If the object of the love is a beauty who has radical and revolutionary ideals, the prospect for a relationship that is out of the ordinary looms large. Yeats met Maud Gonne for the first time at his home in Bedford Park, London in January 1899 and “the troubling of [his] life began”. It is this “troubling” that Quinn’s three-hander seeks to dramatize.
Following a solo voice performing a song in Irish by Sean Duggan, the action begins with the speech by Yeats (Philip Judge) in the Senate on 11th June 1925 speaking against the proposal to place a ban on divorce. By that time Yeats had been married to Miss George Hyde Lees for approximately nine years. However allowing for dramatic licence Quinn has Senator Thomas Westropp Bennett (Sean Duggan) exchanging brickbats with Yeats. Bennett’s views are firmly rooted in the belief that the marriage bed is the only place in which sexual activity is permitted. By an unlikely theatrical stratagem, he finds a notebook belonging to Yeats that gives detailed information about the relationship between Yeats and Maud Gonne, and her daughter immediately prior to his marriage. Rationality is not to be observed.
The play, at the beginning, makes extensive use of speeches made by Senator Yeats and Bennett but also one of Maud Gonne’s on the streets of Dublin as she protested against Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland. While these undoubtedly place the strikingly different political and social mores in full view they remain somewhat remote from the extraordinary Yeats/Gonne contest. Their personal dealings would be considered unusual at any period without any need for the historical background to be shown. It is hard to give credence to their antics however they do make for a series of exchanges which have elements of comedy. So this drama has the ambience of a high-farce costume drama.
Quinn has created an interesting insight into an aspect of one of Ireland’s greatest cultural figures and into his prime femme fatale who “troubled” him. However this insight somehow fails to convert itself into a piece of theatre that grips. Maybe the dimensions of the egos of Yeats and Gonne are of such a magnitude, both on a stage at the same time, there is little room left for drama.