The story opens in 1916. The world is at war, Irish freedom fighters have just staged an armed rebellion in Dublin, and the three characters we first met in Her Secret Rose are deeply unsettled. The world famous poet, WB Yeats, Yeats, “having come to 50 years” has decided he is in need of a wife. The love of his life, Maud Gonne, has just heard about the band of revolutionaries in Ireland who’ve decided, once again, that England’s difficulty (the war) was Ireland’s opportunity (to strike for freedom) and is frantic to join them. And her daughter, Iseult, longs for love and artistic achievement.
As three talented mavericks try to redeem their past against a background of escalating war and revolution, can they rise to what they truly need from each other? Or will lack of understanding destroy their intense love triangle and their work together?
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Normandy 1916. Iseult Dances
Well now. Look here with me now across flat fields, flat sand and a flat sea, all a shade of grey. Sunlight is rising but it’s hidden behind the ocean mist. Looking at the peace of this still dawn rising, you’d never know that fifty miles up the coast a world war rages. Except, that is, when you hear the big guns booming, but it’s too early in the day for that yet. So far, it’s all quiet, waves advancing and retreating through the haze, and down at the shore, coming into view as sunlight rises, two silhouettes. A cat named Minnoulouche watching the seabirds flit and her mistress, Iseult Gonne, dancing in her nightgown.
Come closer, take a proper look. Oh yes, she is beautiful, Miss Iseult, in her 23rd year. Six feet tall, features perfectly formed into the kind of beauty that’s a kind of shock. She knows it, how can she not, poor girl, but when she dances in the wind like this, she is free of all that.
Lithe and lovely, long hair loose and flowing, sheer tulle half-revealing her body, Iseult twists and turns to the rhythm of the waves, splashes of silver water kicking up from her feet. A poet has written an ode to the tragic beauty of this dance and she always thinks of him as she begins, but she dances only for herself. For the dancing of the dance.
Woman and wave, bending and bowing, advancing and retreating. A dreamy reverie.
And then it’s broken.
A shouty voice is shouting. “Iseult! Iseult! Come in now”.
There’s nothing dreamlike, hazy or illuminated about Maud Gonne, also six-foot tall, but booted and costumed, striding across the tidal pools and shallows. Iseult opens her eyes to the white light behind the clouds, the seabirds, the sea, trying to shut out the image that has leapt to mind on the tide of her mother’s voice. A British soldier roughly pinning a square of white paper on MacBride’s puffed-out chest.
And to shut out the voice itself. “Iseult! You must come and dress, NOW!”
A priest is whispering last rites in MacBride’s ear, while he pays no attention.
“Forgive us our trespasses… as we forgive those who trespass agains us,” the priest whispers as MacBride waves away the blindfold a young soldier is trying to put on him, and snarls at him, in his rough Irish way.
“You can leave off the blindfold, fella. Haven’t I spent m’life been looking down the barrels of English guns?
Iseult dances. Dances. Dances.
Maud cries: “Iseult! I know you can hear me!”
MacBride does not get his way. The soldier ties the blindfold and another soldier then cries: “Ready!”
Twelve rifles rise.
The priest backs away, reciting the end of the prayer. “…and deliver us from evil. Amen.”
Twelve soldiers aim their rifles at the white square pinned on MacBride’s chest. MacBride cries out: “Forgive me. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.
“We’re all sinners, John,” calls the priest. “Keep asking God’s forgiveness, John, keep asking.”
On Colleville beach, Iseult stops dancing. Breath heaving, she stares into the visions she’s been seeing.
“Iseult! Look at me.” Maud is level with her now. “Are you actually trying to miss the train? You wouldn’t do that to us Iseult. Would you?
Iseult raises her eyes to her mother but in her mind she sees the executed MacBride falling, dead, to Kilmainham prison ground. Forever now a martyr for the Irish cause.
She folds her legs and collapses, with perfectly pitched drama, into the break of an incoming wave.
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