Hughes’ Galway tragedy

Shelley Marsden looks at ‘Doonregan’, a new play exploring late poet Ted Hughes’ troubled love affair in Ireland

Former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes is on record saying that it was during the 60s, whilst living at the picturesque Doonregan in the heart of Connemara, that he made his “big breakthrough – in my writing and in everything to do with myself”.

It’s this period that is being brought to the London stage with the help of New York-based theatre director Alex Dmitriev, who has directed a new play about Hughes’ experiences at Doonreagan House written by the property’s current owner, Swedish-born Ann Henning Jocelyn.

Doonreagan explores the doomed relationship between Hughes and Assia Wevill during their brief but intense affair there, and portrays their struggling relationship following the suicide of Ted Hugh’s first wife, fellow poet Sylvia Plath.

Dmitriev, whose credits include St. Nicholas (Irish Rep Company) and Alan Ayckbourn’s Taking Steps and How the Other Half Loves (York Theatre Company), told the Irish World it brings alive a darkly fascinating chapter of Hughes’ life:

“Doonreagan enables you to enter the lives of two very complicated individuals whose stay in Ireland led one to greater achievement as a writer, and the other to a sad and lonely suicide.  We meet Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill at the crossroad. I’ve known Ann for many years, and her talent to put you right in the room with this complicated and haunted relationship is what makes the show so exciting to direct.”

The play, which will run at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre from September 3-21, stars Flora Montgomery (Best Irish Actress Award, Basic Instinct 2) as Assia Wevill and Daniel Simpson (Driving Miss Daisy, UK Tour, London Road, National Theatre) as Ted Hughes.

Assia Wevill’s biographers Eilat Negev and Yehuda Koren said of it: “Ann Henning Jocelyn has been able to grow wings and fly high, or rather, dive deep, into the inner workings of these charismatic characters.”

Following the suicide of his first wife Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes took sanctuary in Doonreagan House with his two children, his mistress Assia Wevill, a married woman with whom he’d been having an affair since before Plath’s death and their baby daughter, Shura.

For the rest of this article, see the Irish World newspaper (issue 7 Sept 2013).

Runs September 3-21. Call 020 7287 2875 or visit www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk.

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