Review: English trip to Dublin

On the first weekend of half-term, a group of 13 keen English pupils were fortunate enough to glimpse the literary history and rich culture of the vivacious capital city of Ireland.

We arrived in the midst of Dublin Theatre Festival so took advantage of this by witnessing two rather contrasting plays. The first was a small scale production straight from the Edinburgh Fringe. Based on Edouard Louis’ autobiographical novel, The End of Eddy was centred around a homosexual teenager coming of age in rural France. Although often serious and provocative, the two boys who comprised the entire cast injected humour into this poignant story. On the second evening, we watched Druid’s rendition of Shakespeare’s Richard III having learnt about the history of The Abbey Theatre in a backstage tour. Set in a cubic abattoir-like stage fitted with a gruesome electric shock machine, this was an innovative rendition of one of the history plays that was unfamiliar to most of us on the trip.

At the Dublin Writers’ Museum, we traced the routes of Irish literature, and at the National Library and the Bank of Ireland we visited incredibly interactive exhibitions on W.B.Yeats and Seamus Heaney respectively. However, the key Irish literary figure for this trip was James Joyce as the majority of our group are studying his collection of short stories, Dubliners for our Pre-U exam. We started our ‘Dubliners tour’ at the James Joyce Centre and encountered significant locations of Joyce’s life whilst tracing the footsteps of his characters; from Joyce’s school, Beldevere College, to Kildare street where the “harpist stood in the roadway, playing to a little ring of listeners” in Two Gallants We finished on O’Connell Bridge which is featured in Joyce’s final story, The Dead. This journey around Dublin brought Joyce’s extremely topographical work to life and has already been useful back in the classroom. At Sweny’s Pharmacy, we read collectively the passage from Joyce’s most famous work, Ulysees, which describes how Leopold Bloom buys a bar of “sweet lemony wax” in this location. We were even treated to some Irish songs performed by the rather eccentric PJ which warmed us all up on a miserably rainy day.

Alongside our literary focused activities, we visited the National Gallery of Ireland which is home to both contemporary and traditional art from around the world, and the Dublin City Gallery where Francis Bacon’s studio has been relocated. At Trinity College Dublin, we viewed the extraordinary Book of Kells and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the Long Room which contains possibly the oldest existing harp in the world. We also had the opportunity to speak to an English professor at Trinity which was especially valuable for those considering applying there and we were given further insights into student life in Dublin through meeting student Owen Hargrove (LI 2011-16). For a slightly less intellectual antidote, we concluded our stay in Dublin by exploring the Guinness factory, Ireland’s largest tourist attraction, with views over the rooftops of Dublin.

Thank you to Mr Gordon and Miss Marks who organised such a successful and interesting trip.

Review by Hope Nicholson (MM U6)

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