by Nikki Hoffpauir
Mullingar may well have been the warmest city we’ve visited. Not just in terms of temperature, because the weather was perfect for us, but also in terms of the people. Perhaps it’s because it was the city we were in the longest and we really got to feel a sense of the community there. The audiences were phenomenal, albeit smaller than the others, and stayed with us at the theater bar post-show, sharing with us their enjoyment and being extremely generous with their praise and their time.
The folks at the theater in particular, as I’ve already mentioned, were just lovely, taking care of us in grand style. Murt is the bartender, and he and Sean taught me and Brianna how to pour the perfect Guinness, though how successful we were is still up for debate if you ask certain locals. Murt was a saint for putting up with our behind-the-bar shenanigans and letting us take over serving on occasion.
Then there was Shane and his rockabilly band named the roadrunners who played for us pre-show one night—well, really they were rehearsing while we were getting set up for the show for the All-Ireland hurling match on Sunday where they sang at halftime, but we were happy for the entertainment. If you get a chance, look them up on Facebook and/or have me play the version of Fields of Glory for you that I recorded as they’re going to be huge someday. If there’s an agent out there… They already won the Scor Encore (Ireland’s Got Talent kind of a thing), so trust me on this.
Music was pretty much always flowing at the theater. Even on closing night, while the cast of Oliver (the next show up) helped carry stuff out as we struck the set, Aidan and Shane were masking the sound of screw guns with their guitars, followed by another open mic kind of a night for us.
When we weren’t at the theater, with the lovely weather, we were able to take walks around the grounds of the hotel on a regular basis, with many mornings starting with a lake walk to see the two horses that live on the neighboring property to feed them grass. Then off to visit the swans. Yes, swans migrate from Iceland to Ireland apparently, and our lake may have had all of them for how many there were. One morning walk also included an unplanned poetry reading by the picnic table courteous of Tim. Some folks were able to take advantage of the nearby golf course and spent some time at the driving range as well. Hotel life isn’t that bad!
One thing I can’t forget to share…Thursday night after the cue-to-cue, we went to the Crossbar and got to enjoy some authentic trad music. They were fantastic. In Keegan fashion, we requested The Auld Triangle and sang along, and then a bit later, the band was gracious enough to let Tim join in singing with them. The video is up on facebook if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s pretty amazing and made up for a long cue-to-cue day, which ended up, like all others, at the theater bar unwinding.
On Sunday, we had a free last day. Some folks chilled at the hotel getting rest with Darius particularly working on getting over a cold, while Jon and Josh headed back to Galway for some more of the legendary open mic night there. Rasher, an actor at the theatre, was suckered into taking a few of us to a pub to watch the All-Ireland final between Kilkenny and Tipperary and explain the rules to us. James, Thony, Maboud and I met him at Canton Caseys, where he patiently explained the rules of the game to us. I can’t really describe hurling very clearly and Rasher would probably give me the business for this pathetic oversimplicifation…it’s an extremely fast paced sport somewhat like lacrosse, where extremely fit men run up and down a field with sticks and a ball, wearing only a helmet for safety. The ball gets balanced on the sticks or held in their hands as they advance it forward, until it’s passed to another player or batted for a goal or a point.
There are two ways you can score—in a goal similar to soccer for 3 points, or thru the uprights above the goal for 1 point. Getting hit with the stick or the ball is pretty much part of the game, so I honestly don’t see how these men are still walking by the end, but it’s amazing to watch. The action is continuous and trying to track the ball up the field was a challenge. Kilkenny was the team we were rooting for since we open there at the end of the week, and they played an incredible game, even to my uneducated eye. The match was a draw which means they have to replay it again in a few weeks, so several of us will have a date to get together try to watch it.
After that it was back to a pub for a pint (glass for me since I was pacing myself and the guys thought I couldn’t down a pint in time), and then off to watch the local Gaelic football match. Another blend of sports and another rule set to learn. Think soccer plus rugby plus hurling plus football. Same sort of scoring as hurling, but instead of sticks, the 15 players move a soccer-like ball forward by carrying, kicking or handpassing it, and every four steps, a player has to either bounce the ball or solo it by bouncing it on their foot and kicking it back up–see, I was paying attention! At some point, you just lean in and watch and marvel in the athleticism. I was wearing green and therefore had to root for Gary Castle, and they ended up winning, so clearly I’m picking the right folks to cheer for.
Then back to Number 1* for a few more pints and dinner, and then we met up with Colin and Mark and a few others the theater bar for some final drinks with the folks there and a nightclub or two just because we could.
Finally our time in Mullingar was over, and on Monday at 11, we loaded up the bus and headed for Ennis.
Thanks for an amazing time, Mullingar. Had the cráic. Until next year, hopefully.