GALWAY DEVOTEES of the poet Patrick Kavanagh are in for a treat next week when two stage plays based on his life and work come to town.
I, Kavanagh, a one-man show devised and performed by Noel McGee, will be staged at An Taibhdhearc, on Wednesday April 9 at 1pm.
In a lyrical mix of the real and the imagined, interspersed with tender and funny moments, the show brings us on a journey with Kavanagh, the man and the poet, through his own words.
Noel McGee is best-known for playing the part of villain Jim O’Dowd in the TG4 soap, Ros Na Run, for several years before his unfortunate and bloody demise. He has also worked for Druid, Focus, and Project theatres, as well as directing for stage with Aisling Ghéar and Aisteóirí Aon Dráma.
On Tuesday April 8 at 8pm, the Town Hall Theatre stages a repeat visit of Peter Duffy’s superb rendition of Kavanagh’s epic poem The Great Hunger.
First published in 1942, and regarded by some as Kavanagh’s masterpiece, The Great Hunger sharply delineates a life of economic and imaginative privation. A large part of the hunger the poem describes is sexual; its protagonist is bachelor farmer Patrick Maguire who has spent years at his mother’s beck and call.
When she finally dies aged 91, he himself is 65 and has missed the boat in terms of finding a wife and having a family of his own, a source of acute sorrow and regret to him:
“O God if I had been wiser!/That was his sigh like the brown breeze in the thistles.”
As well as the spiritual pain the poem describes, there are also moments of holy rapture:
“Yet sometimes when the sun comes through a gap/These men know God the Father in a tree:/The Holy Spirit is the rising sap,/And Christ will be the green leaves that will come/At Easter...”
Duffy himself grew up on a small Monaghan farm so has a ready affinity for Kavanagh’s material which informs and shines through his absorbing interpretation of the work.
In his peaked cap, worn jacket and clothes he looks every inch the farmer who has just trudged in from the field. The staging relies on a few simple props, such as a small creel of potatoes, and uses snatches of recorded ambient sound - birdsong, wheels on gravel - to evoke the rural landscape.
Duffy’s soft-spoken conversational delivery draws us into the world of Maguire, his family and neighbours, with all its hardships, thwarted hopes and stray shafts of happiness. It is an outstanding performance.