Thursday, February 13, 2014


Half-term starts tomorrow, and anyone looking for a good book to read over this period should seek out Jo Baker's Longbourn, new in paperback, especially those in VI and V currently studying Pride and Prejudice (and now in our Library, too).

Baker's idea is one of those that make you wonder why anyone didn't tackle it already: Pride and Prejudice seen from the perspective of the servants in the Bennet household (or, at least, as much of that story that actually impinges on them). And she writes very well, capturing the texture of everyday life vividly.  This book, apart from being a very enjoyable read, will also be valuable in prompting thoughts about Cultural Context for those preparing for the Leaving Certificate, and there are fresh thought-provoking ideas about several characters in the original novel.  In some reviews, Downton Abbey has been mentioned: ignore this, since apart from the anachronism, this is a wholly superior piece of work. It could valuably be read alongside another excellent piece of literature about Austen, John Mullan's What Matters in Jane Austen?

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Candide: the 2014 Junior Play

Over the last three nights, the Big Schoolroom was taken over by an excellent production of an adaptation of Voltaire's Candide. One of the visitors was our former Head of English, John Fanagan, and these are his thoughts:-

Ten years ago, in 2004, a major refurbishment of the Big Schoolroom took place, which gave a wonderful new lease of life to the nineteenth century building's use as a performance venue. The audience for this year's Junior Play, Candide, enjoyed a very creative and visually arresting use of the space. In the traditional stage area were banked rows of seating. Likewise on both sides of the Big Schoolroom. At the Cadogan end, and right down the centre, were the main acting areas. Ronan Swift and his fellow directors produced a fast-moving and highly enjoyable version of Voltaire's novel.

The central character, Candide, is hardly ever off the stage. Casting James O'Connor was a bit of a gamble: he is very young (I Form) and his voice is not as strong or developed as some others in the cast. However, as the performance unfolded, I became increasingly convinced. His (relative) youth emphasised the essential naivety and optimism of his character. He has a sympathetic stage presence and was very assured in a most challenging role. In the plot he was often at sea, but never in his acting.

There were more than twenty other young actors in the cast, the majority of them playing more than one role. Their versatility and easy transition from one character (and/or gender) to another were very impressive. The exotic costumes added to the spectacle, particularly on Mantuk Suen as the Sofi. Freddie de Montfort's roles as Dutch Citizen/Monkey/Prime Minister will give some idea of how they had to move from one extreme to another. There were some very strong performances among the single role characters. Aisling McBurney was a pert and coquettish Cunnigonde. After a quiet start, the role of the servant Cacambo was played with mournful authority by Ralph Sweetman-Sutton. Ross Magill had everyone in stitches as the Old Woman (imagine an eighteenth century Mrs Doyle from Fr  Ted). Michael Kennedy had the the scene at the start as Narrator mad a brief (but highly effective) cameo appearance later as Don Issachar.

The cast were roughly fifty-fifty boys-girls and some of the girls gave  especially confident performances: Darcy Maule as the Queen of Bulgaria and Elizaveta Kozhevnikova as Sergeant/Dervish come to mind. I was sitting  beside an Old Columban from the 1980s, Hugo Smythe, who was obviously enjoying his  daughter Louvisa (Soldier/King of Eldorado/Whip Master) as much as she was enjoying herself on stage. That enjoyment pervaded the production. They were all having the best time; I thought Mark Crampton (Baron)  might levitate, he was having such a ball. All of the cast will long remember participitating in such a lively and imaginative production.

Music and sound effects helped move the production along. I particularly enjoyed hearing Tristan Clarke's Sine Nomine choir making their contributions. When you look at all the pupils and staff involved, you realise what effort, on so many levels, went into this Candide. I would applaud the producers' ambition and the great pleasure they gave to cast and audience alike.

John Fanagan.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

TY Extended Essay: Childhood & Parenthood

In another in the series of excellent recent Transition Year Extended Essays, here is Darcy Maule's. She wrote on the theme of childhood and parenthood in three books, and explains in her introduction:

"The three books I chose for my extended essay are We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and In the Blood; A Memoir of My Childhood by Andrew Motion. After completing all three of my books, I was very pleased with what I had chosen. I was fairly certain I wanted to read We Need to Talk about Kevin from the beginning as I had heard of it before and the whole concept of the book sounded so appealing to me for my essay that I had to read it. When I had established that I was reading this book, my theme was clear to me; childhood and parenthood. However it is a broad theme, I wanted to especially focus on the psychological aspect of the theme as it a subject that I have always been so curious about and thought that this essay was the perfect excuse to study this in depth through reading my books.

All three books are told in the first person narrative. We Need to Talk about Kevin is told from the point of view of the mother of a boy called Kevin who is the killer in a high school massacre. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is narrated by a boy called Christopher who has Asperger’s syndrome. The book is written in the most interesting way and includes maths puzzles, diagrams and pictures. In the Blood is an autobiography of the author, Andrew Motion’s childhood.

All three of the books are very different, but they are all about the same period; childhood. I thought that because they were so different it would be really interesting to compare them as childhood is such an important time in someone’s life. It shapes you to be the person you will become and it sets a base for your entire life. It truly is the most fascinating period of someone’s life as the amount you learn in your first 10 years or so of your life will be more than you ever will learn."

Read Darcy's full essay here.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Linguistic Analysis

We recently received a very helpful Comment on our system, and thought that classes might like to analyse it as a piece of writing. So here you go:-

TESTIMONY Hello my name is MONICA from United Kingdom, I never believe in love spells until I experience Dr.HOODOO, and after he cast a love spell for me, my Ex husband who left me and 2 of our kids for 3years called me to apologize for the pain that he has caused me and till today we are living a happy family, if you need a right place to solve your problems contact DR HOODOO is the right choice. he is a great man that have been casting spells with years of experience, and his spell is absolutely harm free. he cast spells for different purposes like: (1)If you want your ex back. (2) if you always have bad dreams. (3)You want to be promoted in your office. (4)You want women/ men to run after you. (5)If you want a child. (6)[You want to be rich. (7)You want to tie your husband/wife to be yours forever. (8)If you need financial assistance. (9)Herbal care Contact him today