Historical Inspiration


Inside the word “history” hides the word “story.” So much history is lost and one way to avoid repetition is to know it. I read a short reference about this soup kitchen horror in Neil Hegarty’s The Story of Ireland, and I immediately saw it as a play in my head: the famine victims slurping thin soup upstage and the plump Brits strolling on a downstage walkway.

It’s called The Brooch and here’s part of its synopsis:

Set in Dublin in 1847, this short play opens on Soyer’s Soup Kitchen where French celebrity chef Alexis Soyer feeds Irish famine victims, displaying this charity to rich British ex-pats for a minimal fee. Next door in the Phoenix Park is the Dublin Zoo where slightly more was charged to view simians eating.

Throughout its domination of Eire, British have viewed the Irish as monkeys, and particularly during the Famine years. Throwing Protestants and Catholics of different classes together in the soup kitchen scene forces both groups to see the other as fellow humans. Each character represents an aspect of the Irish population: McKitteridge represents Protestant Ulster and Gerry is Catholic. Kathleen is the iconic spirit of the island, Kathleen ni Houlihan; her protagonist is jumping class from farmer to artist. Soyer is Anglo-Norman. Russell, Roddy, Brown are British. They all struggle through the tragedy of the famine and into the re-building years of recovery.

Both British and American governments still mistreat the disenfranchised and under privileged. Reality shows put the miserable on display. Charities still embezzle.

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