Claremount Hotel

Wednesday 27th ‘48

Dear Austin Clarke,

I’ll be delighted to do anything I can about the ghost wives dresses. I had an idea that Ann Yeats was doing them, so I didn’t trouble except to hope now and then that they would be suitable for dancing not too narrow in the skirt for instance. At the same time I had a picture of dresses at the back of my mind – pale grey the colour of mist – pearl grey I think it would be called. Close fitting bodices, no sleeves, full skirts that should not look full as they walk out and round but should hand in straight folds until they dance. Length to just above the ankles. I don’t know what the material would be. I’m very bad at knowing the names of materials, for I never buy any, but get dresses readymade in shops which are altered to fit. Eveling Burchill would know. She has to deal with that sort of thing. Is there a dressmaker attached to the Abbey Theatre who would carry out the dresses? I don’t know any myself. E. Burchill found one to make the grey muslin dress for Christine when she danced in Cain. As I picture the ghost women, their faces and arms will be powdered with pale powder to give the ghostly effect but I also see bright or brilliant coloured little touches here and there, suggesting the treasures in the secret room and exaggerating the ghostliness. I don’t know exactly where the brilliant touches would be placed in the hair perhaps or on the pale ghostly arms.

I’m going home on Friday. My fortnight will be up then. Could you come in any time during the week end and let us talk and get things clear? I saw the dancers at E. Burchill’s the day I came away. They were very promising. I gave a few very small corrections and suggestions. E.B. means to start close detailed practice on the 1st Nov. I’ll be in there on that day, which is next Monday. I’ll ring you up on Friday evening or Saturday. I hope this letter isn’t too incoherent. People are talking all round me about sweepstakes, prices of shoes etc. etc.

All good wishes to you both.

Yours sincerely,
Mary Devenport O’Neill

Tel. 91731.

2 Kenilworth Square

Sunday 12th September 1948

Dear Austin Clarke,

I was talking to E. Burchill yesterday morning. She will be very pleased to do the choreography for the Yeats play and to train Christine, also to train six pupils for the Bluebeard walk. Yesterday evening I read “The only jealousy of Emer” for the first time for many years. There is a lot of beauty and poetry in it. It was written before his ice-age came on him.

This morning I rang up E. Burchill again and told her the story of the Yeats play and the part Christine would play in it. She was extremely interested. She said it would be necessary, before she started the choreography for Christine to attend a couple of early rehearsals and walk through her part, to get it in relation to the other actors. She said that she, herself, ought also to attend those early rehearsals, so as to get an idea of the play as a whole and be able to fit Christine in as an integral part of it, but that unfortunately she won’t have time. Her days are filled up from now to Xmas. She asked me if it would be possible for me to go to one or so of these Yeats-play rehearsals and to bring her back a complete description and plan of the stage, that is the position and movements of the other women, the ghost etc.

The dance in this case will be built on the verse-speaking of Christine’s part as in ordinary cases it’s built of the music. Every movement and gesture of Christine’s must synchronize absolutely with the words and cadence of the verse, therefore she will require someone to speak the verse while she builds the dance, either the verse-speaker who will speak it on the night or someone who will speak it in the same way with the same pauses, stresses etc. When the dance is ready, before it is practised in hard, she would like you to see it and criticise. She will have no difficulty with the Bluebeard walk. She will train six pupils to walk in the proper way to a slow monotonous count until Bluebeard dies and to scatter and swirl away in all directions then while the curtain is coming down. She will, she says only charge just enough to cover her expenses. All those girls, being embryo professionals, must be paid. Little girls would not have to be paid, but then they wouldn’t do. If the dancing comes very expensive do let me pay for the Bluebeard part.

Kind regards to you both.

Yours sincerely,
Mary Devenport O’Neill