Easter is a Hard Habit to Break

I don’t really believe in anything much, religion-wise, anymore but still Easter remains a hard habit to break. 

I looked up the word ‘Agnostic’ on Wikipedia to see if that’s what I am these days. I do reckon I’m some breed of that. 

There’s lots of different types, apparently and, from my quick read, I think the term ‘Soft Agnostic’ is possibly best suited to me. 


According to Wikipedia, a ‘Soft Agnostic’ is someone who doesn’t know or believe in anything today but who reckons it is possible that someday they might.

Gosh that sounds like an invite for every religious head in the land to come banging on my door and email. Please don’t. I’m a lot tougher than I sound and I know what I know… today. You won’t change my mind about any of this, trust me on that.

If I sound rather wish-washy in my disbelief well that’s easy to explain. That’s because it’s Good Friday and, as I said, a couple of times now, this Easter thing is a hard habit to break. 

I was never what you would call ‘Devout’ but I was brought up in an Irish household where all the Catholic observances were observed. We did Easter, Christmas, Lent, Ascensions, Resurrections, Ashes, Palms, Loaves and Fishes. You name it, we did it. But none of it was done in a ‘Carrie’s Mum’ crazy ass kind of a way. It was all just a part of Community, Family and Life and it didn’t feel restrictive or oppressive or naive or false. It was just the way everyone did things.

In that environment, as a kid, Easter was the most immersive thing. Christmas was full to the brim with lovely distractions; toys and food and men in red suits and first-run movies. The theological part of Christmas was always rather sweet and happy-ever-after. But Easter… that was another thing altogether. Easter was like a real time movie that was far too graphic for a kid to be allowed to see and therein, perhaps, lay some of the fascination. We had grown up with Jesus as this good guy who did amazing things and slapped down arguments in winning ways. Now, he was caught and he had no safety pin concealed in his garment with which to cunningly escape. He was to be stripped naked and degraded and whipped and dragged to the street and nailed up on a lump of wood. He was to die. The hero of the movie, the James Bond, the Doc Savage of the piece was nailed up and dying, his side was being slit with a sword to make sure he was dead and blood and water was running out… and I was seven.

I was seven, or eight, or nine and this was played out every year in real time. I use the phrase 'real time' over and over again because that it how it seemed. It was like a biblical version of 24 and we didn't just watch it or hear it, we played it out. We went over and back to the church and lived all the big scenes. We had our feet washed on Thursday night, we had a requiem thing on Friday at three o’clock, just as Jesus died, and we gathered at midnight on Saturday night to cheer him back out of that tomb as soon as we could.

After being a kid, and living these scenes out like that, it doesn’t ever really go away. No matter how thoroughly the faith you might have had sails away on a cold wind of logic, historical fact, and basic common sense. 

It’s Good Friday morning as I write this and, although I won’t be in a church this weekend, I still feel the urge to play my music sombre and keep my diet simple. I’m still aware that it’s a ‘Day’ unlike others, for some reason that I can’t quite pin down. Oh, and I respect and acknowledge those people who will live out these days as I used to do as a kid. You go for it. You’re doing the right thing for you and for your respected beliefs and let no one tell you otherwise.

I wonder how much Easter touches people who are non-religious, other than me? Am I a curious hybrid of religious upbringing and adult understanding or am I much more the norm than imagine I am?

Whatever.

All I know if that yesterday, on Holy Thursday morning, I was drawn from a busy work schedule to go into the church when there was nobody there except the ladies preparing the altar for the ceremonies to come. I went in and I lit a candle. I lit it for my Mum and Dad who would have attended all these ceremonies, if they were still here. and perhaps I lit it for me too, who would not.

What does it all mean? Damned if I know.

All I know is that this Easter thing… it’s a hard habit to break. 

The ‘Dance Night’ Adventure

This week I got to show my newest little play to a theatre audience. I just want to scribble down a little bit about it, while it’s fresh in my head. 

‘Dance Night’ is a fifteen minute theatre play which was written specifically for the Claremorris Fringe Theatre Festival and it was written with a particular cast in mind, all of who (thankfully) agreed to take part.

It was quite funny, actually. I finally made myself happy with the play one Sunday night back in November 2013. Of course there had been the customary draft-after-draft but now, finally, I had something in hand that I was reasonably content with. I printed off a few copies of the script and went around to Donna and Eamon’s houses and slipped them quietly through their letterboxes (Tara lives a bit too far away) then I ran away before I could be heard. Within half an hour I was getting simultaneous calls from both of them, waxing positive about the script, committing to do it, and berating me for not calling in for tea.

The premise of the play is that Diana is delivering her lecture to her assembled audience about the nature of amateur drama in theatre and how it is really just like a dance. She is interrupted by Edward, who saw her talk advertised in the local paper and, when he noted the title ‘Dance Night’, he mistakenly thought the evening was going to be an actual dance. Edward has come to dance and possibly, if he’s lucky, run into his wife again.

I had a few objectives in mind with this little play. As ever, I wanted to inject a little of my most personal experiences under the skin of the piece and see how that worked Also as ever, I wanted to make my audience laugh. I love a laugh and I work hard to get one if I can. This time, though, I wanted something more. I wanted to make the audience cry too.

Perhaps I’m wrong but I think it’s far easier to make an audience laugh than it is to make them cry. An audience is predisposed to a little laughter and is often actively looking for a reason to do so. Not so with tears. Crying is a private thing and it does not come easily.

After we did the play in Claremorris on Tuesday night, quite a number of people came up to me and to the players and confessed that they had cried at the end of the play. For me it was a dream fifteen minutes. The cast played it beautifully. Let me name them, Donna Ruane, Tara NĂ­ Cheallaigh, and Eamon Smith. They did me proud. I watched the performance from a nice vantage point on high and to the right of the hall so I got to see the lovely warm audience come along with us on our little journey.

This, for me, was the very best thing. To get the opportunity to put the writing onto the stage, to have it so brilliantly performed, and to entertain and even move the audience. There were prizes for best actor and actress and script and we got our fair share of nominations, which was gratifying. But I bet all the winners feel much the same way as I do about things. It's great to win, really great, but to get to do the plays and do them so well - that was the real prize. 

Thanks to everybody at Claremorris Fringe who enabled the sixteen plays to come from far and wide to play on their stage. It was a genuine blast.

Thanks as well to our own lovely Linenhall Arts Centre who allowed us into their wonderful theatre to rehearse at every opportunity. What friends they are.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and write something new. There’s an audience out there who may not know that they are waiting... but they are.