If you fly into Dublin with the sorry shadow of our former national airline, woven into the upholstery of your seat are quotations from O’Casey, Joyce and Yeats. How civilized. Then you pass through the terminal and quotations from Irish writers are etched into the glass panels on either side of you and – hold onto your hat – some of them are even by women.
Depending on where you stay, you may cross the Beckett Bridge, admire the statue of the recumbent Oscar Wilde, or pass the house where The Dead was set on your way. The city is littered with literary landmarks. See, that’s what the Irish are good at, words. Talk. Stories everywhere. Chances are your taxi driver is a poet or indeed a playwright. Even the dogs on the road are at it. Your hotel pillow is embroidered with some more fabulous words. Oh, you think to yourself, I like this place. They value their culture. It’s great.
And then you decide you’d like to see a play. The National Theatre’s programming seems a bit predictable and safe, and the other large stage in the capital city is more interested in classics or adaptations of dead men’s plays. No, you want to see a new Irish play. Something fresh, of today. So you search for the theatre dedicated to new writing. Oh. There isn’t one. How strange. Then you realize all of those heralded flagship writers are dead. You’re walking around a graveyard.
You find the venue where most independent theatre companies produce their work. Tonight is a dance show, not to your taste. You give up and retire to a bar where you fall into conversation with a bunch of playwrights – the invisible generations – all broke and eager to explain the state of play.
One thing they seem to agree on is that because of the country’s recent venality implosion, risk may not be so rare as before. The pressure for everything to be amazingly successful may have abated. Artists are lifelong philanthropists, hard wired for recession, they will live to tell these tales.
On your next visit maybe.