Communion at the Gate Theatre

Mary O’Malley
Irish
b. 1954

 

This is the time of life when a woman
goes to Dublin to the theatre to get away
the night every Leaving Cert student in Ireland
is up from the country to see the same RSC production.

Hamlet is small and elegant and very English. What did
she expect – that after all those years
he would have grown really Danish, the lies
would be less eloquent, gestures less fluid?

Tonight she finds the prince tedious and self-obsessed.
You are thirty years old for Christ’s sake,
she shouts, startling the audience.
The students are disapproving, then delighted.

Now that they have stopped texting one another,
the girls are shaping some of the words.
There is Royal Shakespearean body language
between Claudius and Gertrude.

The boys whistle, applaud uneasily.
The woman thinks Gertrude is entitled to her lover’s kiss.
What kind of twisted little shit are you?
she asks Hamlet, but silently. Hamlet is relentless.

The actor fifty if he’s a day, torturing his mother
who is the same age. No one cares.
It is as bad as MacLiammoir playing Romeo.
The kids are loving it. We are rearing

a generation of throwbacks, she thinks,
without Latin to sustain them, much less history.
She checks the exits, measures her chances. She rises
in a crouch just as a hush is spreading through the house.

Here and there along the rows the students begin
To mouth Hamlet’s soliloquy. The half-formed faces
half-lit are devout. At What is a man is his chief good be…
but to sleep…the ungodly voices join in as at Mass.

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