At Swim, Two Boys

Just like almost everything else in life, if you look closely, there is a pattern to seemingly random events. Or rather, without much strain, you can see that there is pattern to events that are supposed to be wildly random.

Almost a year ago, in July 2015 when I was in Chennai, my friends group from Trivandrum made a short notice plan to go explore Pondicherry and before we knew we were already in Pondicherry having fun! And weather made quick plans like us and a rather sunny day turned rainy as we watched (I should have taken a hint at that point about the Dublin visit). To escape from the rain, we ran to the nearest building which happened to be a book store. Among the books that captured my interest that day was a book that inspired a dance by Earthfall I somehow came across and looked interesting because it is set against a backdrop of a waterfall and the stage is a slowly filling lake- At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill.atswim

I bought the book.

The book is not exactly gentle in the first 100-150 pages. Jamie O’Neill fishes the most beautiful words from all over the dictionary, cooks them in choicest of, what I assume are, phrases from Irish period vocabulary and serves you with a side of history of Irish Easter Rising. It sure is yummy but it takes a while getting used to. The book is set in 1915-16 Dublin and tells the tale of two boys Jim and Doyler set to the backdrop of Irish struggle for Independence from the British. I would write about this wonderful book and its story of love, war, poverty, self-acceptance and war some other time.

And before I finished this book, I am assigned to a project in the very Dublin the book is set in. What are the odds? At that point I didn’t even know we had projects in Dublin.

I carried the book with me to Dublin.

While walking back home from a cinema last day, I saw a poster for the play At Swim, Two boys. I am like, Whoa!! I ran across the road, clicked a picture of the poster and came home and booked tickets for the next show.

The play is one of the most beautiful man made things I have ever seen. Samuel Beckett Theater in Trinity College is quite brilliantly set into a multi level asymmetric stage where the whole of the play happens with absolutely no break in flow save for the short intermission. Fenna von Hirschheydt who designed a space like that should be doing our public spaces; such a clever use of space. The same set is a pier, beach, bedroom, living room of multiple houses and often simultaneously and you need not be Sabu Cyril to visualize the parts of the scene not depicted in the minimalist set.

But for me without question the best part of the show was the brilliant acting by the lead pair, Jim and Doyler. Or was it their adorable Irish accent? If I was Doyler, I could kill to hear Jim call me Doyler.

Kerill Kelly made Jim such an endearing character. The innocence in his eyes, despite lack of evidence, I would call fake. You can’t look that innocent and naïve at this age. It just is not humanly possible. I have no idea how he does that. A very mature young actor. Intentional or not, I think I saw the whole play through his eyes. Attention to details is amazing. While sitting with legs in water the way his foot plays with the imaginary water was the most memorable part of the play for me.

In no way is other actors any lesser than him, just that Jim is the most lovable character. Theo Foley is brilliant and oozes confidence. Doyler looks considerably different than how I had him pictured in my head.

Anthony MacMurrough convincingly convert the initial slight hatred we might feel to the character to a sort of love and respect. And oh Nancy! Love you! ❤

How did Tim Scott adapt that mammoth of a book to such a short time frame without losing the essence of it? The screen-play, to layman’s eyes, have done justice to the novel.

Would have loved to get my copy of the book signed by the Author and the lead pair!

I think my disappointment of having missed Khasakkinte Ithihasam play in Bangalore has vanished. Seeing a play based on a book you have read is an inexplicable feeling. If you think movie adaptations are good, trust me plays are the best. Remember the childhood days when you thought the actors lived inside the TV, that is how you feel when you see a play. No start-action-cut and retakes. People live the characters right before your eyes.

In one year, picked a random book from a random bookstore and ended up traveling to a country and city where the book is set and see a play based on the very same book. Hmmmm…

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