The Happiest Medium Review by guest contributor Kate Mickere
The art of storytelling seems to be in the Irish blood. Ancient bards used to wander the Irish countryside, singing the haunting ballads of the isle for a pint of ale. Ray Yeates is a modern bard, traveling across the Atlantic to perform the beautiful one-man show, The Parting Glass.
Written by Dermot Bolger, The Parting Glass examines the story of Eoin, a middle-aged man returning to Ireland after a twenty year absence. Telling his story from the waiting area of the Dublin airport, Eoin takes us through his life. With a great warmth and sharp humor, he discusses childhood friends, life in Germany and soccer. He beautifully explains a father’s love for his son and mourns the loss of his parents and the Irish way of life.
The national obsession with Irish football is interwoven throughout Eoin’s tale. He seems to associate all of the important events of his life with a certain match. The climax of the piece occurs during a game in 2009, when Ireland lost its qualification for the World Cup due to an unfair penalty. As Eoin mourns his country’s defeat, we realize that football isn’t just some silly game. We see that football can be a reflection of the hopes and fears of a nation. No matter what tragedy befalls Eoin, he still manages to believe in his team.
Ray Yeates, a former artistic director of the Abbey Theatre, is funny and endearing in this monologue play. His talent is obvious as he seamlessly shifts between characters and scenes. He is heartbreaking as he relives his tragedies and adorable in his pride for his son. Yeates seems to effortlessly make the text come alive, as each phrase conjures up vivid images. It is a joy and a privilege to watch Yeates create the life of Eoin for us.
Eoin’s life is “a life measured out in soccer matches.” There is so much more in this piece than soccer, however. The Parting Glass examines what it is to be an Irishman and what it is like to start a new life at middle age, feeling like a foreigner in your own country. Soccer is just the background for this lovely piece.
~~~The Parting Glass was part of the undergroundzero festival and has now closed.