I was somewhat daunted by my first visit to Hampstead this millennium, with the climb up the hill once I had scrambled off the bus and the shops with their signs in Hampstead-French. But the young couples on the pavements seemed to be talking German to each other.
But once I had found the pub and climbed up some stairs, I was reassured by the welcome from producer Léonie Scott-Matthews and her charming assistants, not to mention the pleasingly mismatched seating.
Of the three pieces that made up 65 minutes’ running time, Riders to the Sea (J. M. Synge) was the first and best, and Maura’s despair struck home with me:
Michael has a clean burial in the far north, by the grace of the Almighty God. Bartley will have a fine coffin out of the the white boards surely…What more can we want than that?
The Pot of Broth, by W. B. Yeats, was a peasant farce where the tramp hero had undergone gender reassignment and the plot recycled the good old nail stoop story. Perhaps the tramp’s imaginings could have been given more space to breathe and the host and hostess changed their minds less easily.
Finally, The Travelling Man by Lady Gregory (in fact, both of these two were more like collaborations between her and Yeats) got a little stuck between being a much shorter Playboy of the Western World and a Biblical parallel. Again, the mother passed a little too matter-of-factly from ejecting the Traveller to despair on realising she had lost the King of the World.
Definitely an experience worth ascending the Golden Mountain of Hampstead for.