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 the translation/adaptation, staging, and reception of the play in Italy must be considered against the contemporary backdrop of globalization. (MR)
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)
Celebratory Thoughts on the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of John Millington Synge
García-Romero, Anne. The Fornes Frame: Contemporary Latina Playwrights and the Legacy of Maria Irene Fornes. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 2016. xiii + 240 pages. ISBN 978-0816531448. Pbk. $24.95.
Kiséry, András. Hamlet’s Moment. Drama and Political Knowledge in Early Modern England. New York, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 340 pages. ISBN 9780198746201. Hb. £66.
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 by 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)
The Good Friday Agreement (1998) has set in motion significant changes in Northern Ireland, generating new conditions which, however, also brought numerous problems to the surface on various levels of society. Sociologists have called attention to how intensely the persistent afterlife of sectarian hostilities affect especially teenagers who are often unable to see their goals clearly. Several contemporary Northern Irish playwrights have relied on young characters to pinpoint timely and pressing social and cultural issues as well as to throw light on the precarity of the post-Troubles environment. This essay discusses three plays from different decades of the post-Agreement period: Gary Mitchell’s Trust (1999), Lucy Caldwell’s Leaves (2007), and Owen McCafferty’s Quietly (2012). Their respective dramaturgies showcase the long-lasting influence of the historical burden of the Northern Irish conflict on young peoples’ subjectivities as well as demonstrate how middle-aged characters are still haunted by memories of the psychic wounds they suffered during the most formative years of their lives. Through their underage protagonists, each playwright suggests that members of this generation might not be able to further strengthen the peace they have formally inherited. (MK)
This essay explores Northeast Scotland-born Morna Pearson’s first full-length play, The Artist Man and the Mother Woman (2012), a grotesque portrait of a tortured relationship of a middle-aged artist-teacher and his troubled mother. As Pearson’s dark comedy gradually turns into a violent tale of horror, new semantic dimensions unfold from beneath the initial surface of light entertainment, among them the exploration of the nature of artistic creativity. The sources of this creativity lie in belated sexual awakening and the powers this process unleashes. The essay argues that due to the representation of the liminal artist figure both as a creator and as a creation, Pearson’s Künstlerdrama studies the creation of art and the creation of the artist as intertwined processes which are difficult to distinguish. (AB)
The paper examines two drama adaptations of Tolstoy’s novellas, Nancy Harris’s The Kreutzer Sonata (2009) and Peter Reid’s Desire (2014), both recent additions to contemporary Irish theatre’s abundant number of adaptations as well as male monologue plays. The exploration of the adaptation strategies assesses how Harris and Reid engage with these nineteenth-century works so that the old narratives are endowed with new relevance. While Harris’s play, which often rises to a poetic quality, innovates with the use of on-stage live music, it remains set in Russia in the past, which makes it a powerful period piece with anachronistic treatment of the central theme of sexual jealousy. In contrast, Reid’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s novella with a similar theme actualizes and relocates the original, transferring it to Ireland in the present time, and through the changes introduced in the plot and character, the playwright creates a credible psychological landscape for twenty-first-century audiences. (ZsCs)
Little, James. Samuel Beckett in Confinement: The Politics of Closed Space. London: Bloomsbury, 2020. 235 pages. ISBN 978-1-3501-123-2. Hb. $115.
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.
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 not 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)
Collins, Christopher. Theatre and Residual Culture: J. M. Synge and Pre-Christian Ireland. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. 301 pages. Hb. ISBN 978-1-349-94871-0. €106.99.
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)
Since the emergence of naturalism in the theatre in the last decades of the nineteenth century the reality of an action on the stage has been put into a new context. The previous tradition of performance characterized by artificial, schematic solutions in gestures and speaking was replaced by direct presentation. Performance pretended that real events were taking place in an artificial, stylized context; that is, within the framework of the theatre. The first part of the essay discusses the connection between theatre and violence, starting from a historical and philosophical context and arriving at an aesthetic perspective which regards violence as a challenge for the theatrical representation. The second part studies stage violence in the plays of Martin McDonagh with the primary example of The Lieutenant of Inishmore. The third part summarizes the Hungarian reception of The Lieutenant of Inishmore and compares two productions which handle the staging of natural and brutal scenes quite differently. As the whole play has a metatheatrical feature, confronting theatre with the general problem of theatrical representation, it is relevant to see how this challenge is handled by the productions reviewed. (PPM)
The paper explores the possibility of analyzing Ted Kotcheff’s 1985 film, First Blood, the first piece of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo series, from the perspective of dramatic structure as conceived in Schelling’s concept of tragedy and Schiller’s notion of the sublime. Perplexing as this critical context may appear at first, the paper argues for a reassessment of the movie’s aesthetic qualities as its protagonist is placed between Hollywood’s male-gendered stock figure of the action hero and the more complex character of the tragic hero, familiar from classical drama. Taking account of Rambo’s reception in recent cultural studies discourse regarding gender criticism and American post-Vietnam War cinema, the essay attempts to show the correlation between some of the aesthetic tenets of German idealism and the consequences of a close-reading approach to this popular classic. (BS)
Dunnum, Eric. Unruly Audiences and the Theater of Control in Early Modern London. Abingdon-New York: Routledge, 2020. viii + 264 pages. ISBN 978-0-8153-6933-2. Hb. $140.
Bringing the act of artistic creation to the stage involves a multiplicity of strategies and interrogations that are not easily contained within the boundaries of the “drama of the artist” as understood in its quasi-biographical sense. This is especially true of visual art which cannot be represented by words only but requires a different kind of presence on stage. In many Künstlerdramas the biographical presence tends to impose recognizable limits to the fictionalization exercise, which frequently turns to the individual creator as the center of an inquiry into the problematics of artistry. This paper discusses how two contemporary Künstlerdramas, John Logan’s Red (2009) and John Murrell’s The Far Away Nearby (1996), attempt to reinvent the trope by weaving the biographical record with the performative presence of acts of staged visuality that re-center the act of artistic creation. (TB)
Martin McDonagh’s A Very Very Very Dark Matter (2018) explores how the stories of exploited people have been written out of history. The play includes several storytellers, and it both replicates and deviates from the details of numerous existing narratives, including McDonagh’s own plays. Set in 1857, the play imagines that Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales were written by a pygmy woman from the Belgian Congo who has traveled back in time; Hans calls her Marjory and keeps her in a box in his attic. Eventually Marjory writes herself out of the box and departs for Africa to prevent the colonization of her people. Dark Matter compels us to question the narratives about the past that have become embedded in our culture and to uncover the facts that official accounts have altered or suppressed; rewriting history is acceptable only in imaginative storytelling, as an act of poetic justice. (JL)
Most commentators agree that many forms of theatre evolved from the ceremonies and rituals that existed across different societies and cultures at various historical moments. How ceremony and ritual might deepen, add significance or give substance to dramaturgical and performance practices remains one of the hallmarks of theatre traditionally and historically. No contemporary Irish writer has been so obsessed, fearful, trapped by, and even dependent on the idea or concept of this season of goodwill as Conor McPherson, in its anticipation, occurrence, and passing. His characters are often in fear of, trapped, or overwhelmed by Christmas and need to contest the hold of a funerary consciousness, predominantly a disposition of destructiveness, and counter-balance it with something more open and celebratory.
In McPherson’s theatre, events surrounding Christmas become the manifestations of dream spaces, where nothing is predetermined, where chance can trump certainty, where chaos can trump order, where time is anything but linear and causal, where there is neither regulation of nor limits on the possible. McPherson’s dramas manipulate patterns, cycles, seasonalities, and rituals in order to suggest the possibility of other sorts of life rhythms, alternative consciousnesses, sensibilities and registers of collective and mutual aliveness. (EJ)