About the book
In Venus of Dublin Marianne Ackerman has spun a spellbinding tale about an actor, a painter and their muse. The play was inspired by a famous portrait of the actor Edmund Kean that hangs in London's Garrick Club. In it, Kean is depicted as a Huron prince, Alanienouidet, wearing a costume which the chiefs of a small community near Quebec City gave him when he visited in 1826. The chiefs, who were impressed by Kean's performance of Shakespeare, took him on what became known as Kean's lost weekend in the wilderness. Five years later, while on tour in Dublin, the once-great, untamable stage performer Edmund Kean hires a local renegade to paint his portrait. As Kean relives his encounters with the Huron of Quebec, the spirits of the wilderness inhabit him and unleash a mystical and surprising portrait of desire. What results is an entirely unexpected rendering of the artist. Venus of Dublin is a poignant tale about the personal cost and public inspiration of an artist's quest for immortality. The play premiered at Montreal's Centaur Theatre in April, 2000.
About the author
Co-founder and former Artistic Director of Theatre 1774, Marianne Ackerman has written several other plays, including L'Affaire Tartuffe, Céleste, and Woman by a Window which were published by Signature Editions (formerly Nuage Editions). Ackerman's first novel, Jump, was published by McArthur & Company.
Born in Belleville, Ontario, Ackerman studied at Carleton University, the Sorbonne and the University of Toronto. She lived in France for a number of years, and currently lives in Montreal.
from Act One, Scene iii
Ginger: You seem to know most of the lines.
Kean: I've done it a hundred times.
Ginger: I suppose you never get bored of such lovely poetry. Do you?
Kean: Bored? Kean, bored of Shakespeare? Many a night I've walked onstage with a fierce urge to leap at the front row and strangle the first person who coughs.
Ginger: What held you back?
Kean: Fear of damage to my costume.
Ginger: Now, why would you want to strangle somebody who'd paid good money to see your performance?
Kean: Who knows? It's a feeling.
Ginger: Have you ever thought of giving up acting?
Kean: I've turned my back on the theatre a dozen times. Once or twice, it was even my own idea.
Ginger: And did you feel better?
He pours himself a drink. Pours one for Ginger, but she doesn't take it.
Kean: Every step away from the stage was a step away from prison. One by one, I could feel the chains drop from the skeleton around my soul. The sky opened up and a blast of pure mountain air blew down through the dust of London, straight into my poor tainted lungs. I felt like a free man, and vowed that every sound I uttered from then till death would be a hymn of praise to freedom.
Ginger: What brought you back?
Kean: Same thing every time. Three bars into Amazing Grace, and I fall flat on my face, a sobbing lump of fear. There's nothing out there. At least I couldn't find it. Nowhere to go but back to the stage.
Ginger: Surely you could do something else?
Kean: Yes. If I were someone else.
Ginger: There's always occupations for a talented man.
Kean: You're very young, Mrs. Hogan.
Standing to go, she hands him back the glass, untouched.
Ginger: Thank you for the opportunity to hear the lines. Surely your performance tonight will be splendid. Good-day.
Kean: Please, come to the theatre.
Ginger: Oh, no, (Referring to the book in her apron.) I've a good book on the go, must be finished.
Kean: Why do you amuse yourself with those silly novels? I've seen you, don't blush. Let me amuse you tonight.
Ginger: Shakespeare's tales are old. I know all the endings.
Kean: Endings are obvious, especially in the theatre. If it's a tragedy, they die. A comedy, they marry. Or is it the other way around?
Ginger: No, it's the ending keeps people going. Look at this book, riveting. Sure, I could skip ahead to the last page, but that would spoil the rest. Once started, I don't let a book out of sight till it's rightly finished, no sir. The first book I ever owned was called Beyond the Dog's Nose, about two lads who set out to walk around the world. Terrifying story, I read it one chapter per night. Then, for no reason, the book disappeared. I looked everywhere, but it was not to be found, and that tale's been hanging over my head ever since. Not to know the ending—it's—I'll tell you, it's an awful thing. You're just left hanging. Do you know what I mean? Left, hanging?
Kean: If it's an Irish author, they'll return safe and sound, after much travail, to find their dear mother dead.
Ginger: I don't even know the author's name.
Kean: Mrs. Hogan. je vous en prie, do a poor tired player the honour of your presence at the theatre tonight.
Ginger: Not tonight for sure. It's First Friday.
Kean: What! First Friday?
Ginger: I'll be at church.
Kean: Will there be anybody in the house?
Ginger: (Doubtfully.) Oh, there's bound to be somebody.
Kean: Jesus! That arsehole is out to ruin me! I warned him specifically to look into the frigging saints' days and don't put me up against the frigging Pope. When in Rome, you cur! Is that too much to ask for ten per cent of my hide? Christ. And I get the blame for drink. I get the blame. Who holds the bottle! Who pours? He's driving me to it!
She runs to the door.
Ginger: Good bye, Mr. Kean.
He runs after her, grabs her arm.
Kean: Mrs. Hogan, I am so sorry. Please. Let me explain. I have the worst manager on earth. It's a terrible burden.
She shakes herself free.
Ginger: Sorry for your troubles
Kean: No! You can't leave now. Sit, till I calm myself.
He leads her back into the room.
So, you're telling me I'm about to perform Richard the Third for the atheists and Jews of Dublin? Are there any Jews in Dublin?
Ginger: Oh, yes.
ISBN 13: 978-0921833-69-7