I went to see Bookworms in the Abbey Theatre yesterday, with some friends from my book club. We’ve been meeting once a month, for the guts of three years now. Members have come and gone and come again in some cases.
The formula remains the same, however. We alternate between our respective houses and apartments. We discuss the book and drink some wine. We discuss things other than the book and nibble whatever treats the host has provided. The person who is hosting chooses the book for next month, often offering a choice of two are three, in case too many people have read the first choice.
We’ve read contemporary fiction, mostly, but there have been books on economics and some autobiographies and classics. No plays or poetry so far, and last month one of my rejected suggestions was a graphic novel.
Bernard Farrell’s new play looks at a group of characters before, during and after a book club meeting. Formerly a group consisting solely of women, the members of the book club have agreed to allow their husbands to join them. Chaos ensues. Early on in the play, Jennifer describes the book club as “the last bastion of female exclusivity” and by the time the guests have left Ann pronounces that “the men ruined it.”
As a modern comedy of manners, Bookworms is a refreshing glance at the pressures of life in post Celtic Tiger Ireland. Niall McMonagle, writing in the progamme for Bookworms, says that:
“the book, and everything it stands for is empowering and important. A book brings us altogether elsewhere. Billy Collins, in his poem Books, reminds us that when we read, we are ‘reading ourselves away from ourselves’ and then we are delivered back, a changed and different being. A book also brings us together.”
It’s not the best play I’ve seen this year, nor the best production. But it’s the one that made me laugh the most. Books can bring people together, and Farrell’s achievement in Bookworms is to remind us of that fact.