The ‘butterflies’ above refers to the fact that on his travels around the British and Belgian colonial empires, and his sojourn in parts of Latin America investigating the brutalities of various rubber companies, Casement collected local lepidoptera (butterflies) for the Natural History Museum. This is a London-based institution, he may have felt it another part of his imperial duty to do such. The London University School of Slavonic and East European and the School of African and Oriental Studies were both a focussing of relatively disorganised studies in wartime, for wartime. The persons who ran The Empire were, as Pádraig Pearse put it, strong and wise and wary. There was nothing about their ill-gotten booty they weren’t interested in – and hanging onto, thus the centralising of knowledge about the east European and Slav world, as well as The Empire.
The ‘bones’ refers to a number of things, including Casement’s own bones. An introductory voiceover (repeated twice during the performance), quotes notes made by a bureaucrat in the course of Casement’s remains being disinterred to be repatriated to Ireland fifty years after his execution. The anonymous, disinterested, civil servant notes that, despite being told by (Pentonville) Prison personnel that the use of quicklime had been abandoned some year’s prior to Casement’s execution, there was a layer of the substance in the grave. It had been poured over the body, which was in a winding sheet, and had destroyed the flesh, and, half a century on, most of Casement’s bones.
Dance is not a medium designed to convey specific messages – there are times in this show when it is difficult to work out where in Casement’s career we are. There are no obvious references to his long sojourn as a minor imperial Consular bureaucrat. There are to his encounter with King (’of the Belgians’) Leopold – pictured as an un-regal, almost gangsterish figure. (He spent most of his life in a Paris hotel, living with his ‘mistress’, his devout Spanish wife lied with their children in the draughty Laeken Palace in Brussels.
This ‘show’ is well worth seeing, despite some obvious problems – most dancers have fine ‘toned’ bodies – most monarchs and bureaucrats don’t. There are moments when the cast appear in ensemble, at one or two points not overdressed, when most of the audience’s attention inevitably wanders away from the grisly climax of this story.
Which is, of course, Casement’s brutal execution.
This Project is one of the better – and unusual – products of the centenary commemorations of 1916.
This show was part of Belfast International Arts Festival 2016. In 1916, British peer Roger Casement was hanged in Pentonville Prison and was shown in The MAC, Belfast on 13 October 2016
Jeffrey Edward Anthony “Jeff” Dudgeon MBE is a Northern Irish politician, historian (his books on Roger Casement are extremely well researched and very readable) and gay political activist. He currently sits as a Ulster Unionist Party councillor for the Balmoral area of Belfast City Council. He is best known for bringing a case to the European Court of Human Rights which successfully challenged Northern Ireland’s laws criminalising consensual sexual acts between men in private. He is currently one of three openly gay politicians elected to the City Council along with Mary Ellen Campbell of Sinn Féin and Julie-Anne Corr of the Progressive Unionist Party
The following extract from an interview in The Irish Times, gives an insight into Jeffrey, who he is and what he has become…
“I’ve always been a reformer. A rebel and a radical, yes, but I wasn’t a revolutionary,” Dudgeon says, looking back on his 1981 victory in the European Court of Human Rights, which decriminalised homosexuality in Northern Ireland.
What was life like, as a young gay man, before the Strasbourg win? Dudgeon sums it up in one word: isolation.
“I knew all about homosexuality, and by my midteens I had ascertained that fact about myself. But I just didn’t know how to meet other people, and I was petrified at the thought of it. You just couldn’t say the words to anyone.”…
In the video below Ciarán Ó Brolcháin discusses with author Jeffrey Dudgeon and Dr. Margaret O’Callaghan the book – “Roger Casement: The Black Diaries” which explores the life of Roger Casement – a study of his social background, political life and his contribution to Irish political life.
ROGER CASEMENT’S GERMAN DIARY
Including ‘A Last Page’ and associated correspondence
Edited by Jeffrey Dudgeon
Published July 2016
Link to Amazon Paperback Edition £13.88
Link to Kindle Edition £7.31
This is the definitive version of Roger Casement’s German Diary covering the years 1914 to 1916 when, after the war started, he went to Berlin seeking support for Irish independence. The book has 370 pages in over 150,000 words with 45 illustrations.
This is a companion volume to the 2nd edition of Roger Casement: The Black Diaries – with a Study of his Background, Sexuality, and Irish Political Life which was published in February 2016:
[Paperback, http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/095392873X; Kindle http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01AXB9754]
The German Diary consists of another, and the last surviving, Casement diary, and deals with that most interesting, dramatic and penultimate period of his life in Germany and Berlin prior to his departure to Ireland for the Easter Rising.
It was not a private diary in any sense as Casement left instructions for its future publication. Much of what he wrote was designed to provide a record justifying his time in Germany. He was of an age to have his eye on history while knowing the accusations of treason he had, and would, face, Casement was desperate to have his actions understood. A secondary prompt in the last months was to indicate just how disgraceful and intransigent he felt the behaviour of the Germans had become and how the decision to start the rebellion in Ireland was something he did not agree with for tactical reasons, being an event he hoped to prevent or at least postpone. The final section describes his frantic attempts both to get sufficient arms shipped to the separatist Irish Volunteers and to travel by submarine to Kerry with a view to getting the Easter Rising called off.
The diary and many linked letters give a vivid impression of a man under stress in an alien environment who still manages to observe, describe and appreciate what he sees around him. He writes as an outsider of a nation at war with England and France. His growing frustrations however come to the point where his own mental health is destabilised.
There is a cast of the usual characters that Casement mixed with, political, often aristocratic, although also frequently military men. There were to be none of the street people or lovers that his earlier, more sexual, diaries detailed. In Germany, probably for security reasons and lacking the language, he chose not to go out at night or to cruise for sex. He was also getting on. His Norwegian companion and betrayer, Adler Christensen, looms large, tricking and twisting his way round Germany and America, while draining much of Casement’s time and common sense.
The text is laid out in as close a way as possible as the actual manuscripts to provide an impression of the original. The appendices include correspondence and newspaper articles from the time, while bringing the reader up to date with recent articles in relation to Casement in Germany, the Easter Rising and the role of British and German Intelligence, as well as the ongoing Black Diaries authenticity debate which is, if anything, accelerating. That controversy tells of a still contested issue in modern-day Ireland, despite the immense strides made towards gay equality and emancipation, most recently in the Republic.
The diary was in two notebooks in the National Library of Ireland and essentially covers the eight months from July 1914 to February 1915. Itbegins being written on 7 November 1914 and takes Casement retrospectively from England, to the US and to Germany and then includes a tour of war-torn Belgium. It effectively concludes on 11 February 1915 with him in a sanatorium. At the end, however, there is a brief account dated 28 March 1916 of events later in 1915. Separately, ‘A Last Page’ picks up the narrative on 17 March 1916 running it to Casement’s final days in Berlin.
Casement, a man who wrote too much, drafted many hundreds of other letters and memos when in Germany of which a number of the more significant, particularly those related to the arrangements for his departure to Ireland, are reprinted along with the full, unabridged diary where another writer Angus Mitchell has edited out nearly a quarter of the original text in his book sub-titled The Berlin Diary. Those cuts are at times from the most sensitive of areas, including the behaviour of the German Army in Belgium and Casement’s increasing disillusionment with the Kaiser’s Imperial Government and Prussian militarism. Being complete in its narrative, makes it vastly more readable and comprehensible.
Roger Casement: Controversies in Script and Image
by Jeffrey Dudgeon
QUB School of Creative Arts, Room 101, 12 University Square, Monday 22 April 2013
Jeff Dudgeon is known through his work within the LGBT Community, his courtcase against the British Government resulting in the law in Northern Ireland being brought in line with the rest of Great Britain, and this has been recognised by the award of an MBE from the Queen for his services.
He is also an author, and his book on Roger Casement has been quoted as being ‘a comprehensive view of the texts, with explanations for many of the cast of characters’