When time is not consumed with work it is always great to get away with the kids. Children can be hard work but it is labour of a different order. It is uplifting just to flip from the serious adult world of work and responsibility to the recreational environment of children and relaxation. A parent stuck at home all day might find nothing recreational or relaxing about it but as an escape from the stresses and strains of work it is not without its advantages.

Theatre is not one of my strong points. About a year ago I travelled to Belfast to review the Martin Lynch Chronicles of Long Kesh for the Belfast Telegraph. I had earlier watched another Lynch production and a while earlier Des by the late Brian Campbell. That was about the sum of my experience of theatre over a period of many years. It was an experience that was to be added to when my wife bought tickets for a play, Oliver, staged by The Little Duke Theatre in the Droichead Arts Centre. We took the kids over in the anticipation of a good night out and also in the hope that they might contemplate a side of life they have been lucky to avoid: abject poverty and brutal economic subjugation which pushed many their age onto the streets to beg and steal. A touch over ambitious on my part for the four year old as it proved to be. His mind is as yet uncluttered by the problems of economic survival, either his own or others.

The Little Duke Theatre provides a serious cultural outlet for the town of Drogheda and it is to the credit of those who staff it that their work has been of such quality that the project flourishes in difficult times. The Droichead Arts Centre houses a comfortable theatre which combines good acoustics with adequate ventilation; so unlike some of the stuffy cinemas we have on occasion frequented. We took our seats and settled down for 19th Century London calling.

My father had been a reader of Charles Dickens, author of the novel Oliver Twist, and while I never ventured into his works I grew up in a world where his books were omnipresent and serialisations were frequently broadcast on Sunday afternoon television. Martin Chuzzlewit, David Copperfield, Little Nell, Jacob Marlowe and Ebenezer Scrooge are names that have stayed ingrained on my mind decades later. The film Oliver Twist we watched so often that the narrative holds no surprises for me.

This was an artistically efficient rendering of the story of Oliver Twist, something Dickens himself may well have smiled on with pride. While professional performers assumed key roles like Mr Bumble, Mr Brownlow, Fagin, the input from an accompanying young local cast was top rate. There was even a young child on stage, seemingly younger than my four year old who had drifted off to sleep on my knee. How it managed to keep step with the rest of the cast was astounding. Talent in abundance.

Backed up by song and dance, this was a wonderful performance. ‘You’ve got to pick a pocket or two’ taps its way through my mind while reflecting on the play. Oliver’s impertinence, the Artful Dodger’s wiliness, Fagin’s guile and Sykes' violence all interacted against of a London back drop which featured London Bridge, Paddington Green and the workhouse to convey to the audience a glimpse of life in 19th century Britain. In terms of poverty what was on display in Oliver must have been similar to what Dublin, just 40 minutes down the road, of the same era was.

Production over, we made our way out into a cold January evening. It was a bit too much for the youngest of our children to take in. He had succumbed to sleep on my lap about three quarters of the way through. But for his older sister Oliver ‘was good, actually great; loved it.’ Reason enough to have gone.


  1. Anthony what can I say other than another well written piece and more importantly your building unforgetable memories with your wee ones good on you both,in those bygone days when Albert A ran around with a drippy nose and saggy nappy,come to think of it he still does, but alas I wander, anyway my mate da sang for St Agnes choral society, and as a reward for handing out promotional leaflets he brought us to the Grand opera house to see the gypsie baron and it left a lingering memorie with me which I treasure and I,m sure your wee ones will remember in years to come, keep up the good work a cara. poor Albert is still dancing to the Bay City Rollers

  2. Marty, much appreciated. My kids are the terrible twosome who fight and rebel at the drop of a hat. Hard work at times. Still, the moments spent with them are special. Great to see you back. Your humour was much missed. When the blanket ended and we got our own clothes what did my ma send me in? A Bay City Rollers top! Such stick I got. Not as much as the Dark who ended up getting a pair of pink trousers!

    Larry - got your message. If about there I will sort that

  3. the thoughts of you in a tartan top and the Dark in pink trousers would be a priceless pic Anthony,Nuala was saying her son had thought Albert had fliped his lid,apparantly he told the lad that god switched the light on for him when he went to the toilet,and when he was finished turned out the light, Nuala threw a wobbler "That auld git is pissing in the fridge again"

  4. Marty, you are determined to give Albert some stick and for no good reason!! And am I not just glad that no cameras were on the wing in those days!!

  5. you say no good reason, Anthony, the guy called me a member of psf how very dare he, Albert is a really nice guy and itsa pity there were,nt more of him, now a while ago after doing a Basil Fawlty on this puter I went to Amsterdam, and when there I got a hankering for the old days in Belfast as one does when you leave the auld sod, so I took myself of to a brothel and I asked the madam how much she would charge me for total humiliation,she said £37.50.WOW Ireplied what do I get for that, A Liverpool top , she said

  6. Marty, have you ever seen Albert dancing. After witnessing him once a friend of mine said we should sue the "Northern Ireland" office because there were clear signs of trauma. He said he bets he is a better dancer than Mackers because his coordination was way off, Anthony his words not mine.

    Mackers, a very touching piece, I wish, Really wish I was back at that time when I had to go and watch Jurassic Park fourteen times. And loved every second of it.
    Marty totally agree about the childhood memories. I remember almost all the places I ever went with my da. I remember him taking me to see the death mask of Wolfe Tone, heavy stuff for a child I was petrified, now I can appreciate the importance it had for him and why he would have wanted me to see it. There was fun stuff as well, Mary Poppins, Lobo and Snow White, unforgettable memories indeed!

  7. Nuala,

    thanks. I went to the Jurassic Park one myself although only once. Never got to to see the Tone mask although would have liked to

  8. Mackers, on a change of subject, we read the Sean McKenna obituary last night and Albert was very deeply touched. Over the years I have heard him recollect so many stories about the Crum, Kesh, Maze and even the Maidstone. I have heard so many names mentioned time out of number and one of the people who holds a very special place with him is Sean McKenna. It actually gave him the opportunity to laugh about Sean which is something he has not done for a long time.
    So a very sincere thanks Mackers it really meant a lot.

  9. Anthony I may be mistaken but Tones death mask and I believe there,s a jacket belonging to Thomas Russell on display in the Belfast museum,and you mentioned your wee ones fighting at the drop of a hat, enjoy a cara as Marie would say it would be worse if they couldnt,I,m sure you,d agree and if they are anything like mine were ,one redhead, maybe not so often .