I Am Of Ireland

Bosco Hogan in Focus Theatre's 'I Am Of Ireland', adapted by Edward Callan from the writings of W.B Yeats.

Bosco Hogan in Focus Theatre's 'I Am Of Ireland', adapted by Edward Callan from the writings of W.B Yeats.

Bosco Hogan, resplendent with flowing gray locks and stern spectacles, wears the character of W.B. Yeats like a comfortable pair of old slippers. It’s a comforting and plausible impersonation, providing an opportunity to revisit, through Hogan’s confident interpretation, so many of the poems that are ingrained in heart and mind, from schooldays.

Hogan speaks with an authoritative voice that carries the narrative text and the verse with easy conviction. He is every inch the educated and articulate Anglo-Irishman – only occasionally moving accents into the West of Ireland (Red Hanrahan), Dublin (policeman present at the Playboy disturbances) and aristocratic American (Theodore Roosevelt). But it is in his management of the verse that Hogan’s firm grasp of the material shows. Edward Callan - who wrote the piece, adapted from the works of W.B. - expects the actor to weave the poetry into the narrative. Hogan makes the transitions with great ease (but without much variety) and, in his phrasing, his pauses, his tone – close to the conversational but maintaining a respect for the rhythms and heightened nature of the poems, demonstrates skill and sensitivity. He occasionally allows fussy gestures do the work, but vocally he is clearly in charge. And they’re all there – it’s like a trip through the index of the Collected Poems from 'Red Hanrahan', 'Had I but the Cloths of Heaven', 'Why Should I blame her'…'The Lake Isle' (newly minted in recital and beautifully contextualised), 'Easter 1916' (where the sene of flux and change is vividly conveyed) through the autobiographical texts to the finale:

“Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"

There are one or two surprises, in snippets about Yeats - moments of impotence with Olivia Shakespear, encounters with Oscar Wilde, celebratory sausages – but by and large, it’s safe and cosy.

The James Joyce Centre serves, too, as a magnet for literary tourism and this show is reassuringly direct and transparent, in providing a comprehensive – and safe – crash-course in the life and times of one of Ireland’s literary giants. The rhetorical gestures of the Actor (and there are unmistakable echoes here of MacLiammoir’s Talking about Yeats) make it possible to include the more obscure parts of Yeats - the occult, the magic, the "perning gyres" - without being obliged to engage too deeply with their complexity.

It’s more soirée than evening of theatre. It would resonate well in the drawing room at Lissadel (if they’d let us in) or in Coole Park (were it still standing). While the notional setting is Thoor Ballylee, in the salon of the James Joyce Centre one can imagine Yeats holding forth to please those companions “around the fire at the club”. Indeed the tweedy suit and the flamboyant neckerchief would guarantee him entry to the stuffiest of those institutions along St. Stephen’s Green.

Derek West manages Creative Engagement, an arts programme for second-level schools, and edits publications for the National Association of Principals and Deputy-Principals (NAPD).


  • Review
  • Theatre

I Am Of Ireland by Edward Callan

17 - 29 August (Dublin), then on tour

Produced by Focus Theatre
In James Joyce Centre, Dublin

Lighting design: Sophy Bradshaw Power

Sound: Sinead Hackett

Music composed and played by Gráinne and Caitriona Yeats

With: Bosco Hogan