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Old Age and Aging: Presence and Absence in the Plays of Brian Friel
Published June 28, 2020

Old age and aging may not seem an immediate priority in Brian Friel’s drama, yet several plays feature memorable characters of old, elderly, aging, or declining people, whose presence on stage is occasionally revealed through their absence. The growing cultural visibility of older people contrasts with their invisibility as useless members of... society: they are physically present, yet invisible. In Friel’s dramaturgy, this arouses reflection on the role of old age absent from the mimetic space and relegated to the diegetic space offstage; absence as a theatrical device marks offstage characters as potential catalysts for action. If in some plays elderly characters remain in the background, in others they become pivotal to dramatic construction, ranging from dominant figures like Columba in The Enemy Within (1962), to tyrannical ones such as Manus in The Gentle Island (1971) and Father in Aristocrats (1979), to social outcasts in The Loves of Cass McGuire (1967) and Dancing at Lughnasa (1990). This essay considers the variety of ways in which Friel introduces or openly deals with the issues of aging and of old age through stagecraft and varied dramatic choices as well as the manipulation of mimetic and diegetic space in terms of presence and absence in particular. (GT)

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The Translation of Contemporary Drama: McCafferty’s Quietly on the Italian Stage
Published June 26, 2020

This article explores how spatial and temporal changes are considered as key features by both drama translator scholars and translation theorists and invites reflection on translation in general and the reception of contemporary Irish drama abroad. The comparison of Owen McCafferty’s Quietly and its Italian version demonstrates how t...he translation/adaptation, staging, and reception of the play in Italy must be considered against the contemporary backdrop of globalization. (MR)

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The Plays of Enda Walsh: An Interim Report
Published June 26, 2020

Ever since Disco Pigs hit the headlines at the Edinburgh Festival in 1996, Enda Walsh has achieved major success at home, on the Irish stage, and worldwide. This essay acknowledges that the body of his work to date, comprising nineteen plays plus collaborations in musicals and operas, still represents work in progress and that it is no...t feasible yet to provide anything like a definitive assessment or interpretation. It is argued, nevertheless, that the work may be situated within the Irish dramatic tradition and contemporary modes of performance. While Walsh seeks always to entertain through meta-theatre, his plays owe much not only to Beckett but also to youth theatre, especially to the style of Passion Machine, to story-telling techniques, and to clowning, farce, and rock music. Certain serious themes recur, such as alienation, private versus public space, and death, which place Walsh in a category beyond “just play.” As scriptwriter for David Bowie’s last show, Lazarus, staged in New York in December 2015, he may be moving towards a synthesizing of ideas, style, and theme, thus moving collaboration to a new level. (CM)

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The Sound and the Fury: Verbal Pre-texts in Vincent Woods’s A Cry from Heaven
Published June 26, 2020

Vincent Woods’s play, A Cry from Heaven (2005), is an interesting and provocative rewriting in the twenty-first century of the old legend of Deirdre and the Sons of Uisneach, mainly following the Old Irish version, Longes mac N-Uisleann. Unlike the Deirdre plays of the Revival, it stages and exploits the dramatic cry of Deir...dre from her mother’s womb.

The play has a mixed nature, it is both a pre-text and an after-text, since Woods manipulates the sources and provides twists and variations recounting his own alternative conclusion. At the same time, the play sheds light on language, words, and speech acts as structuring principles. The essay examines the multiple sources of Woods’s play in order to focus on the structuring power of language which characterises the old legend and which plays a relevant role in A Cry from Heaven. (GT)

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J. M. Synge’s Images of Society and Social Critique
Published June 26, 2020

J. M. Synge’s artistic contribution to the revival of the Irish theatre remains an undeniable fact. However, his consistently developed and dramatized views on the condition of Irish society, on the social and economic problems facing the newly formed state, are issues which seem to have been sidelined by critical emphasis placed on artistic ...and theatrical issues of his writing. This essay traces the line of Synge’s social thinking and imagery to show its continued effort to critically review the conservative, patriarchal system of values that Irish society had developed in the first decades of the twentieth century. The main part of the article concentrates on presenting the figures of dramatic protagonists who oppose the conservative social order and who simultaneously develop their independent ethical and social consciousness. The article argues that by presenting strong, Nietzschean, individuals who are vehemently rejected by their communities Synge formulates his own critical views of the Victorian and patriarchal normativity of the Irish state. (ML)

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Dermot Healy, Resourceful Playwright
Published February 1, 2021

Book review:

Hopper, Keith, and Neil Murphy, eds. Dermot Healy: The Collected Plays. Victoria, TX: Dalkey Archive P, 2016. xxxiii + 583 pages. ISBN 978-1-56478-930-3. Pbk. $21.00/£15.00.

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“Fun, disturbing and ultimately forgettable”? : Notes on the Royal Court Theatre Production of Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen
Published June 26, 2020

The essay compares the reflections of a translator on the text of Martin McDonagh’s latest play, Hangmen (2015), with the impact of its first production by the Royal Court Theatre in London. It considers the response of multiple reviewers and of the Royal Court and West End audiences and argues that while this may be the first work b...y McDonagh that features a serious concern—this being the practice of capital punishment and its effect on society—the Royal Court production unduly obscured this aspect of the drama by mostly playing it only for the laughs. (OP)

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"The Very Seeds of Fire”: Chris Lee’s The Map Maker’s Sorrow
Published June 26, 2020

Chris Lee’s The Map Maker’s Sorrow (1999), produced at the Abbey Theatre only six years after Ireland decriminalized suicide, proved prescient in focusing on this national health problem among the young. The very structure of the play mirrors the fragmentation and messy aftermath that suicide almost inevitably produces. The abrupt ...beginning, where a character that the audience does not know and cannot know kills himself, leaves the audience in a position similar to that of survivors who find a suicide. Drawing on the work of Ludwig Binswanger, Kay Renfield Jamison, and national studies of suicide the essay argues that young Jason’s suicide represents a direct challenge to life understood as an orderly progression from birth to death and as an attempt to deny the very premise of lived life itself. (DEM)

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