ISTR Conference 2008 – Book of Abstracts

Irish Theatre: Contexts for Performance

University College Dublin, Blackrock Campus, Carysfort Avenue | 4-5 April, 2008

ISTR 2008 | Schedule

Abstracts

Brigitte Bastiat, University of La Rochelle -Irish Studies Research Group at the University of Rennes 2 (CEI: Centre d’études irlandaises)- brigitte.bastiat@online.fr

The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey: A Collective Experience led in 2007 by the Amateur Theatre Group ‘Les Chantiers’ of the ‘Théâtre Toujours à l’Horizon’, La Rochelle, France.

Sean O’Casey was played regularly in France in the CDN (Centres dramatiques nationaux) in the 1950’s and 1960’s (about 20 stage directions). In 1960 The Plough and the Stars was translated into French by Robert Soulat and published in France by the publishing house ‘L’Arche’. The play was created in 1963 in France by Jean Dasté, director of the ‘Compagnie de St Etienne’ (CDN) but in general, the play has a reputation for being difficult and ‘too Irish’ to attract French audiences, and therefore stage directors have stayed away from it. However, a semi-professional Breton theatre group Strollad ar Vro Bagan translated it into Breton and played it in Britanny in 1992-93. More recently, in June 2007 the amateur group Les Chantiers de l’Horizon of the theatre Théâtre Toujours à l’Horizon in La Rochelle played it under the direction of the professional director Claudie Landy. Based on personal experience and interviews of the director, actors and actresses and members of the audience, this paper will examine different aspects of this collective creation and experience. First, I will argue that although social and cultural differences made it difficult for actors, actresses and the stage director to understand fully the plot and the historical background of the play, they could also be an asset. Secondly, I will discuss the rich and creative language of Sean O’Casey and the arduous task of translating him. Indeed, the actors and actresses all had elocution and comprehension problems, which were partly due to the language used. Finally, I will focus on the performance and analyse the artistic direction’s choices (space, sounds, music, lights, direction of actors and actresses, sets) and the reception of the public.

Debora Biancheri, University of Pisa &Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway – d.biancheri2@nuigalway.ie

McDonagh’s exportation to Italy: the blurred line between laughter and tragedy in The Lieutenant of Inishmore

The paper provides an analysis of the production and reception of Il Tenente di Inishmore by Lo Stabile di Genova. Irish critics have expressed great concern about the exportation of Martin Mcdonagh’s play, whose main themes are deliberately quite controversial. My experience as a member of the audience of the Italian production led me to approach the play as a case study of the theoretical configurations of text, context and performance, especially after my realization that the reactions The Lieutenant of Inishmore had provoked in the audiences who had experienced the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production in London were completely different. Therefore, starting from the assumption that the public dimension of staging allows a play to be re-interpreted and to acquire a different social relevance according to the receiving society, I will focus on the a priori choices made by Genoa production which reflect a creative reading of the dramatic text, and I consider the extent to which these choices may orientate the reception. My analysis suggests that the interaction between the form taken by The Lieutenant of Inishmore in the interpretative option adopted by Genoa’s team and the Italian context has generated a difference in the meaning supplied by the play itself.

Fiona Brennan, UCC – scrahanmf@eircom.net

Facilitating the Dramatic Dream: The Establishment of the Kerry Drama Festival in 1943.

The establishment of the Kerry Drama Festival in Killarney in1943 symbolised a commitment by a small number of amateur drama enthusiasts to the ever growing popularity of amateur theatre in Ireland and the desire by a few to utilise active dramatic competition as a springboard to professional dramatic careers. Such was the desired outcome by Josephine Albericci, who not only initiated the proposal to found the KDF, but set up a second Killarney amateur dramatic troupe, the Hibernian Players, as a rival to the existent Killarney Players. The Hibernian Players’ sole objective was to become professional. Also setting his sights on the professional stage was writer and actor, Seamus de Faoite, member of the Killarney Players. My paper will endeavour to elucidate the following; the importance of the Kerry Drama Festival as a whole; Albericci and de Faoite’s involvement in the Kerry Drama Festival and their post- Drama Festival careers in Dublin and further afield; the collated evidence which indicates how, even today, individuals are still mindful of old wounds incurred as a result of controversial splits over the Festival’s objectives; and the KDF’s position in terms of its importance to theatre in Ireland during the 1940s.

Alyson Campbell- QUB -a.e.campbell@qub.ac.uk

It ain’t over ’til …?

The absence of a curtain call, like many absences, speaks more loudly than its presence. This paper emerges in response to Australian company Brink’s production of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis in Adelaide, October 2004 when a proportion of the audience had a vehement response to the failure of the actors to return to the emptied stage to ‘take a bow’ and a wonderfully bizarre moment at the end of Perth collective pvi’s performance tts:australia (Melbourne) when I stood among a group of spectators abandoned by the performers, lingering on a pavement applauding an empty cityscape. The resulting research into the phenomenology of this act that has long survived the disappearance of the actual curtain itself, and particularly the audience’s devotion to this ritual, leads me to suggest that the absent curtain call is not mere aesthetic conceit, but political choice. In terms of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, this opens up a way to consider what Edward Bond calls the ‘wider political dimension’ in her work in performance.

Mary Caulfield – TCD- caulfiem@tcd.ie

The ‘bitter bitch’: Maud Gonne’s Dawn and the Inghinidhe na hEireann

Ireland has had to act quickly to legitimize the cultural distinctiveness of the nation and the role of women is and has been vital to this process. However, the majority of plays performed on the Irish stage have failed to reflect this engagement. Instead, women have often been depicted within a narrow range of cultural stereotypes and the Irish dramatic tradition typically male, while women’s roles within nationalism have been, and continue to be, diverse, multi-faceted and dynamic. The greatest example of such contributions rests with the Inghinidhe na hEireann established in 1900 by Maud Gonne and her contemporaries. Gonne and the Inghinidhe countered stereotypical depictions of women by creating theatre which wove together contemporary themes, theatrical strategies and the discourse of nationalist philosophy in early twentieth-century Ireland. Gonne wanted to bring the nationalist play back to clear issues of land, ownership and community activism, as well as expose the hardships that peasant women were enduring. As a result she wrote Dawn in 1907. Melissa Sihra contends that, “[…] recovering plays by women is crucial to the renegotiation and pluralizing of Irish theatrical traditions.” This paper will involve an analysis of Dawn while arguing that the Inghinidhe led by Maud Gonne created the first nationalist theatre.

Matthew Causey– TCD – causeym@tcd.ie

Staging the Televisual Beckett

With permission from the Beckett Estate I recently staged a live multimedia production of Beckett’s 1976 teleplay, Ghost Trio at the Beckett Theatre in TCD. Although, originally written and directed by Beckett as a work for television, I set out to explore the possibilities of translating the work from its televisual medium to the live stage. Theoretically, Beckett’s move from stage to television holds many intriguing questions of presence, performance, theatricality and subjectivity within the spaces of technology. The collaborations of designing a videated performance involved filming the teleplay in digital video in a faithful manner using the teleplay as a shooting script. The process included the editing of the work into a video-piece employing various digital effects and an elaborate sound score to facilitate a new interpretation. Finally, we explored a variety of manners of interlacing the video into a live performance. My presentation will look at the opportunities for collaborations between video and multimedia designers in Beckett inspired performance. The paper will include a theoretical discussion of the translation of Beckett’s tele-plays onto the stage with segments of Beckett’s original video and my adaptation of Ghost Trio used as examples.

Enrica Cerquoni -UCD- maria.cerquoni@ucd.ie

Staging the Invisible: Images of Woman and Space in Anne Devlin’s After Easter

Looking at the gender politics of onstage and offstage in the spatial dramaturgy of Anne Devlin’s After Easter and at the mise-en-scène of the RSC production of the play, directed by Richard Attenborough with set design of Francis O’Connor in 1994, this paper will examine how Devlin’s theatrical vocabularies of woman and space respond to the contested and constestatory energies of theatrical realism. The sense of an interior space that has lost its scripted role and evident in the play’s surreal opening, in which space and the main female protagonist are an extension of each other, informs the play’s dramaturgical and thematic architecture. Deploying phenomenology and feminist theories as conceptual frameworks, and visual art aesthetics as intertextual mise-en-scène in relation to textual and staging practices, this paper will interrogate the implications for woman of becoming visible in theatrical representation.

Lisa Coen –TCD- coenl@tcd.ie

The Tuam Theatre Guild, in the 1950s

This paper will discuss the influence of the amateur drama group, the Tuam Theatre Guild, in the 1950s on the writing of Irish playwright Tom Murphy – who was a member of the group for a number of years. There is a significant creative relationship between the activities and repertory of the Theatre Guild and Murphy’s development as a playwright. This paper will engage with relevant examples of the Theatre Guild’s production history to show the unexplored theatrical antecedents of Murphy’s writing, while also examining the importance of local playwright M.J. Molloy.

Suzanne Colleary – UCD – susiecolleary@hotmail.com

Narrative Matters: Story, Narrative and the Joke Art of Irish Stand Up Comedian Tommy Tiernan: A Performance Analysis

 One of the cultural phenomena to have occurred in Ireland over the last two decades has been the highly successful growth of stand up comedy genre. Traditionally, comedians occupied for the most part a peripheral status, however from the 1980’s onwards, Irish stand up comedians have discarded a marginalized position to embody a situationally central popular form of performance. One such performer is the Irish Stand Up Comedian Tommy Tiernan. This article wishes to conduct a performance analysis of Tiernan’s works through the aesthetic of narrative and story. In doing so, I hope to show how narrative and story function within the stand up comedic form, and how the re-imagination of a self and a culture can be seen to rest at the base of stand up comedy

Finola Cronin – UCD- finola.cronin@ucd.ie

Dancing, Difference and Identity: Multicultural processes in contemporary dance practices

It could be argued that the practice of multiculturalism has been well rehearsed in processes of dance making by many Irish based choreographers who create work with casts of international performers. However, in the recent past selected choreographers have chosen to foreground issues of alterity in performance in ways that respond to Chaudhuri’s notion of the ‘ experience of difference’ in multicultural performances. In the work of John Scott with Irish Modern Dance Theatre, for example, issues of race and identity are examined in performance settings that dispute and challenge categories of difference. Scott’s choreography with clients from the Centre for the Care of Torture Survivors has a distinct and implicit political edge as the relationships between the individual and the state, are played out in the context of the ‘real life’ situations of the performers, many of who are seeking asylum in Ireland. Michael Keegan Dolan’s work for Fabulous Beast Dance Company is explicitly concerned with place, but that place, while it may have the flavour of midlands Ireland, is carefully constructed to unsettle fixed notions of identity, as newly imagined representations of Irishness, gender and sexual politics are often parodically portrayed against a background of violence. The gathering of material from collective investigations in the rehearsal studio and the evolution of the performers’ individual contribution into the substance of the performance, resonates with Patrice Pavis’ discussion of the effectiveness of intercultural practice: ‘when it is accepted as inter corporeal work, in which an actor confronts his/her own technique and his/her professional identity with others’ Substituting actor for dancer and/or performer this paper will explore how processes of rehearsal sustain and develop multicultural performances.

Lisa Fitzpatrick– UU- l.fitzpatrick@ulster.ac.uk

Remembering to Forget: Post-Ceasefire Theatre in Northern Ireland

This paper considers memorialisation in theatrical performance as a process that aestheticizes loss and trauma for a community, with the purpose of opening possibilities for the future. Amy Hungerford writes that in order to receive traumatic experience, one must feel an identification with the victim and willingly immerse oneself in the literature of testimony. In the case of Northern Ireland, the trauma is a shared, lived experience that affects the entire community, but is one that those being remembered did not survive. Drawing on Huyssen’s work on memorials and the politics of memory, the paper consider whether, through the representation of recollected trauma in the public forum of the theatrical performance, these productions attempt to open a space for recovery. The paper is based on three examples of recent Northern Irish performances: The Waiting Room by Kabosh, Macbeth by Replay Productions (both site-specific), and Bog People by Big Telly. It analyses the representation of past conflict, trauma and loss in these productions, in relation to either the site of performance, or the landscape evoked on stage.

Joan FitzPatrick Dean – University of Missouri-Kansas City- DeanJ@umkc.edu

Pageantry in the 1950s

After fire destroyed the Abbey Theatre in 1951, Dublin witnessed a series of open-air pageants. The centerpiece of the 1954 Tóstal’s was Micheal Mac Liammóir’s The Pageant of St. Patrick: “Cast of 1,700–Massed Choir of 400 voices–Greatest Pageant ever produced in Ireland–Four episodes extending over two days” (Dublin Evening Mail, 3 April 1954, p. 3). The four site-specific scenes culminated with St. Patrick’s confrontation with the High King of Ireland, the Druids and the Brehons at the Royal Court of Tara, in which he “confounds Paganism, symbolised by his destruction of Crom Cruach and his ‘sub Gods twelve.’“ Celebrating a nation whose defining moment was its conversion to Catholicism, The Pageant of St. Patrick offered an edifying spectacle with thousands in supporting roles. So impressed were the organizers that they consolidated the pageant in six performances at Croke Park following year. In 1956, An Tostal commissioned Denis Johnston to create another, far more secular but almost as spectacular pageant by adapting The Tain. Before the Dublin Theatre Festival, An Tóstal looked to historical and mythological pageantry to re-write Irish history and to draw thousands of non-professionals into performances of Ireland’s heritage.

Everett Frost – NYU- frost.ec@btinternet.com

Word Man meets Note Man: Directing Samuel Beckett’s Words and Music

In 1961, Samuel Beckett collaborated with his cousin, composer John Beckett, on Words and Music, a radio play (Beckett’s third) for the BBC. Words (Bob) and Music (Joe) are actual characters in the play, who, under the club wielding duress of Croak, reluctantly but successfully collaborate in creating a text set to music (a song — about love in old age — in the tradition of German lieder, which Beckett much admired). In creating the text for the play, Beckett took the extraordinary step of creating a work that had, necessarily, to be completed by somebody else, and in which the script, like a score, is not the play but instructions for realizing it, and created, thereby, perhaps the most fully radiophonic work ever written. The John Beckett music was withdrawn after the initial broadcasts and, at Beckett’s request, I commissioned the late Morton Feldman to collaborate on a new score or the American production I directed in 1986 for the celebrations of Beckett’s 80th birthday. In the presentation I will play excerpts from the British and French productions with John Beckett’s music, and the American production with music by Morton Feldman, and excerpts from the interview I recorded with Mr. Feldman — all by way of engaging the complex of theoretical and practical questions involved in producing the work: collaboration, the role of music (and the play as a clear illustration of Beckett’s interest in music being informed by the writings on music of Schopenhauer, Pythagorus, and Nietzsche), radio as a performance medium and why Beckett took such an interest in it, the problematic of committing the “adaphatroce” (Beckett’s word) of staging or giving a concert performance of this specifically radiophonic work. I’ll also try to say something about what I think this Beckettian gem is all about, its invocation of Yeats, etc.

Rosalind Haslett, UU- Haslett-R1@ulster.ac.uk

What’s in a name?: From ‘literary manager’ to ‘dramaturg’ in U. K. theatre.

In 1904, William Archer and Harley Granville Barker introduced the position of literary manager to UK theatre, in ‘answer to the German role of dramaturg’. Yet since the 1980s, officially titled ‘dramaturgs’ have also been employed in UK play-development processes. Mary Luckhurst has described the relationship between ‘literary manager’ and ‘dramaturg’ as ‘complicated’ (2006), and Cathy Turner claims that these terms are often used interchangeably (2008). However, a 2008 survey of UK-based playwrights conducted by the author shows that 70% of those questioned perceived ‘literary manager’ and ‘dramaturg’ as distinct roles. Moreover, the majority of the respondents clearly located these two roles within specific (and separate) theatre structures. Using this survey, this paper will argue that the roles of literary manager and dramaturg are not only distinct, but that they promote different models of play-development. This paper argues, furthermore, that the location of literary manager within a building-based theatre structure leads to a production-led play-development process, and helps to evolve artistic policies and audience development strategies. In contrast, the freelance role of dramaturg generates a self-reflective process of collaborative development which challenges traditional theatre-making structures and questions the perceived stability of terms, such as ‘author’, ‘artist’ and ‘critic’. In conclusion, this paper will argue that the emergence of ‘dramaturg’ as distinct from ‘literary manager’ is significant because it is predicated on an understanding of theatre-making as collective creation, which in turn necessitates the re-evaluation of UK theatre-making structures and play-development processes.

Monica Insinga, UCD- Monica.Insinga@ucdconnect.ie

Ideas of martyrdom of mediocrity and the double in Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow

This paper will attempt a reading of Woman and Scarecrow according to two of several aspects that characterise this play. While a ‘generic’ Woman goes to her death, she traces her life back through her memories and she shares them mainly with an entity, here called Scarecrow, who we gradually understand being intimately connected to Woman, while invisible to everybody else. If, through Woman’s husband’s words, Him, we would tend to think of the protagonist as the stereotyped woman of the house that sacrificed her existence for her family, I will argue that Woman here does not so much represent “the bleeding martyr”, since during the course of the play we learn that she had the possibility of being truly happy. Besides, she deliberately refused to take that direction and preferred to stay with someone that kept hurting her, while always dreaming of magnitude, and those deep feelings of love, passion, bravery and a grand Death that she so admires. Closely connected to this aspect of Woman are her relationships with Scarecrow, Him and Auntie Ah. Therefore I will first explore the close connection between the eponymous characters of the play, trying to explain their relationship in terms of opposites: and if Scarecrow is Woman’s opposite, we could describe them as black and white, night and day, the positive pole (Scarecrow) and the negative pole (Woman). After establishing the main relationship in the play, between the two protagonists, I will finally argue that the secondary characters, Him and Auntie Ah, are actually refractions of Woman and Scarecrow, seen by the public through the filter of the two main characters.

Marie Kelly UCD- marie@iol.ie

Performing Stories: Tom Mac Intyre’s theatre as a gateway to consciousness

The privileged position of the theatre in the realm of the narrative is its ‘liveness’, its ability to tell a story physically so that the carrier of the story and its recipient are both experiencing the telling at the same moment in time. In Tom Mac Intyre’s theatre of the 1980s, with its emphasis on movement and gesture, the movement score of the play may be described as a text itself, one in which a narrative of a non-verbal kind acts a means of communication between writer/actor and audience/reader. This paper argues that this aspect of Tom Mac Intyre’s dramatic work of the 1980s accounts for both continuities and discontinuities between the narrative and life. The performed stories, for instance, exist beyond consciousness or stand outside life as material or concrete texts created by artist and audience alike. At the same time, however, these performed stories open the possibility of the narrative as a structure inherent in human experience and action where Mac Intyre’s drama may be seen as a gateway to consciousness itself.

The paper will explore these continuities and discontinuities in Mac Intyre’s work by drawing on the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the phenomenological hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur and Richard Kearney. It is hoped that the findings of the exploration will contribute to an understanding of Mac Intyre’s place in Irish theatre, especially in the context of the crucial role that the drama as a narrative has historically played in the invention and re-invention of Irish identity.

Kevin Kerrane – University of Delaware – kkerrane@english.udel.edu

Billy Roche’s The Cavalcaders: A Performance History

In its relentless focus on sexual infidelity, its complex musicality, and its reliance on two dozen supporting characters who never appear on stage, The Cavalcaders is Billy Roche?s most intriguing play. It has had three major productions in Dublin and London?-in 1993, 2001, and 2007. I have seen each of them, and have interviewed Robin Lefevre (who directed all three) and actress Ingrid Craigie (who appeared as Breda in the last two), as well as Billy Roche himself. I would like to focus on the most recent production, at the Abbey last spring, which featured Stephen Brennan in the lead role of Terry. Brennan’s performance was less charismatic than those of his predecessors (Tony Doyle and Liam Cunningham), and the result was more of an ensemble production?-very much in keeping with the Abbey’s new configuration. The Cavalcaders is one of several Roche plays set in a public space, but the 2007 production also made smart use of vertical space (in a cut-out above the stage) to amplify that setting. As time permits, I will add pertinent observations on the previous major productions?-and on two others overseas: one in Florida and one (in translation) in Tokyo.

Mária Kurdi – University of Pécs- mkurdi@dravanet.hu

Text as Context: Aspects of Postdramatic Theatre in Elizabeth Kuti’s Work

The paper intends to discuss the potential interaction of certain textual features and figurations in Elizabeth Kuti’s Treehouses (2000) and The Sugar Wife (2005). Treehouses relies on the juxtaposition and also subtle interweaving of two women’s memories, deploying the parallel strategies of monologue and scenic evocation, which create a montage and provide contexts for each other. Similarly, in The Sugar Wife the scenes are also interspersed with monologues that give insight into the personal as well as historical embedding of the processes making up the plot. In both plays action is minimal while, I contend, there is emphasis on the depiction of diverse states, understood as scenically dynamic formations in terms of Hans-Thies Lehmann’s theory of postdramatic theatre. Taking my cue from here I will explore in the two plays the ways they exploit the monologue form, polyglossia, intertextuality and intermediality among their textual devices for presenting a sense of internal changes in the subjectivity of their female protagonists. The interaction of these textual segments is a potential to be realised in performance, and further established and validated by the audience in the shared space of the theatre.

Brenda Liddy – brenda@liddy208.fsnet.co.uk

Performing the Peace Process in Anne Devlin’s After Easter.

This paper explores Anne Devlin’s representation of the peace process in After Easterwhich was first performed in 1994 in Strafford. In this year, there were very significant events which led up the Good Friday Agreement which was implemented in 1998. The initiative to achieve peace was called the “Irish Peace Process” and although there had been many phases in the process, the decision by the IRA to cease all military action on 31 st August 1994, most certainly marked the beginning of a new phase in the peace negotiations. When Devlin wrote After Easter, she was aware of the huge possibilities for change in the Northern Ireland that were created by the ceasefires. In a interview with Enrica Cerquoni she states: In a time of less violent clashes, in a time of social healing, women do become visible and come back into the frame again. They never actually left the frame for me; I kept telling what was happening to me and to my female characters. In her play, After Easter, she portrays a fragmented heroine called Greta who represents the pain and alienation of a dysfunctional and violent community.

Patrick Lonergan , NUIG- patrick.lonergan@nuigalway.ie

“If the Irish Know One Thing”…. Marie Jones’s Stones in His Pockets

In 1999, the Irish dramatist Marie Jones showed that one way of being globally popular is to tap into audiences’ fears about globalisation. She did so with Stones in His Pockets, an internationally successful play in which a Hollywood production company travels to Ireland to make a film about the nineteenth-century Irish Land War. Jones’s drama draws parallels between the imperial past and the globalised present, suggesting that the nineteenth-century struggle between landlord, agent, and tenant in Ireland is comparable to the exploitation by Hollywood producers of a small Irish community in the late 1990s. The difference between the two periods is that the contested territory is no longer land, but meaning: the play concludes with its two leading characters, Jake and Charlie, taking control of the narrative by making their own film, in which they show how poor treatment by the filmmakers provoked the suicide of a local resident. This is a story that audiences everywhere found engaging: after its 1999 premiere, Stones in His Pockets was a hit throughout the world, in London, New York and, indeed, in Los Angeles too. There is a contrast, however, between the play’s emphasis on the local and its own mobility: the play can be toured easily, and is sufficiently free from localised references to be appreciated in most countries in the West. Ironically, therefore, it appears to celebrate Irish culture without actually including any examples of Irish culture that won’t be understood outside the country itself. If Jones’s play is itself an example of mass mediated entertainment, how seriously can we take her critique of Hollywood cinema?

Grainne McArdle – Independent Scholar – grainnemcardle@eircom.net

Phillip Astley and the early circus in Ireland.

The paper will document the work of Astley in Ireland from the time of his first season in Dublin at his ?new circular Riding School on the Inns Quay (1773-74), to the establishment of the Royal Amphitheatre in Peter Street (1788).

Astley’s development of circus repertory during this period will be discussed and related to his work in England and France at the time. The examination will pay particular attention to the personnel who worked in the early circus, equestrians, dancers, actors/pantomime performers, musicians, composers, rope-dancers, tumblers and other specialist acts. Astley’s business strategy will be noted and examined. The paper will not go beyond 1800, as by the end of the century, Phillip Astley had begun to hand over the management of some of the Irish tours to his son John, who had cut his teeth as an Harlequin and composer of pantomimes with the troupe. The study will wrap up with a discussion of the competition encountered by the Astleys, particularly that of the Olympic Circus, at Foster Place during 1798-99.

Sheila McCormick – NUIG- s.mccormick1@nuigalway.ie

Catharsis or Mythification? Verbatim Theatre and the Performance of Trauma

In its production verbatim theatre utilises documents which range in type from edited court transcripts to recorded conversational material. Often verbatim productions are seen to provide a testament to what is known to have occurred, a witnessing of events which might have otherwise gone un-witnessed, performed for an audience presupposed to be capable of forming an opinion without official guidance. However, as Derek Paget argues, the power of this theatrical form lies in the audience’s confrontation with the verbatim texts, revealing that this power remains conditional upon the ability of audiences to accommodate such confrontation. If , through its performance of trauma, verbatim theatre provides a necessary witness to traumatic events, then where does this performance end? And what happens when the events considered become a ‘closed book’ through re-enactment? Through an analysis of Richard Norton Taylor’s 2005 Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry and Fintan Brady’s 2007 Heroes with their Hands in the Air this paper questions verbatim theatre’s performance of trauma and asks whether verbatim theatre is a indeed a mode for cathartic witness-bearing or simply a means of solidifying the mythification of historical events.

Davide Maschio– University of Turin -davide23379yahoo.it

Hugh Leonard’s Stephen D. and Dublin One: Stage Adaptations as Postmodern Works of Art and Literary Criticism

Hugh Leonard’s two stage adaptations of Joyce’s Dubliners, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Stephen Hero may be described as doubly Postmodern. They are Postmodern insofar as they show a wide range of Postmodern stylistic and thematic features, and insofar as they help bring to the fore of critical attention some Postmodern features of Joyce’s own fiction. If it is true that, as the literary critic Kevin Dettmar’s states, ‘Modernist texts […] always contain the germ of their own Postmodernity’, then Postmodern stage adaptations of Modernist texts, such as Leonard’s, may set in motion a dialogical encounter among texts resulting in a new artistic and critical synthesis. After placing Leonard’s adaptations in the context of contemporary Irish theatre, I will also argue that Stephen D. and Dublin One can be read as peculiar examples of Postmodernist criticism of Joyce’s Modernist originals.

Holly Maples – University of East Anglia – H.Maples@uea.ac.uk

Parading Multicultural Ireland: Identity Politics and National Agenda’s in the 2007 St. Patrick’s Festival

The Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade offers up images of green clad participants, groups of Irish dancers and marching bands offering a performance of imagined Irishness. In 2007, however, 650,000 spectators came out to see Brazilian samba bands, African drummers, and a host of Irish and immigrant community groups. The cultural diversity amongst participants was evidence of the festival organizers’ aim to increase the presence of the ” New Ireland” in its pageant. This paper examinesthe transformation of cultural identity found within traditional Irish culture and those of Irish immigrant community groups within the 2007 St. Patrick’s Festival. By including contributions from multicultural Ireland in a parade noted for its celebration of Irish identity and Irish culture, City Fusion and the St. Patrick’s Festival attempt to publicly investigate understandings of Irishness for the New Ireland. Despite these aims, however, tensions arose amongst the pageant participants over how Citychange represented the multiple communities involved in the pageant. While the Dublin City Council and City Fusion concentrated on the merging of cultures reflecting the “new Irish identity” of Dublin in the 2000s, many of the communities themselves were more concerned with presenting their own distinct national heritage and culture. By documenting the creative process behind the City Fusion pageant, the tensions between the political agenda of the Dublin City Council and the immigrant groups involved, this paper seeks to consider the politics behind City Fusion’s performance of identity to an evolving Ireland.

Hiroko Mikami – Waseda University hiroko.mikami@gmail.com

Curtains in Contexts: W. B. Yeats’s Early Plays

This paper examines W. B. Yeats’s use of the curtains as stage properties in his early plays, and explores the possible influence the playwright gained from two different sources. Firstly, I would like to put Yeats and his plays into the context of William Poel’s Elizabethan revival at the turn of the last century during which Yeats started his career as a playwright. Poel’s Elizabethan Stage Society was one of new theatrical movements to which Yeats was exposed in London at the time. Poel tried to recreate performances using an open stage, an original version of text, very little scenery. It seems that his re-introduction of the second (traverse) curtain to the stage might have influenced, to a certain degree, the ways in which Yeats adopted in his early plays. Secondly, pre-Raphaelite painter, Burne-Jones’s influence to Yeats’s is to be examined. Especially, his illustration of The Collected Works of Chaucer, a copy of which was presented to Yeats in 1905 by a group of friends commemorating his 40 th birthday, gave a certain impact to Yeats’s stage design.

Gabriella Calchi Novati– TCD- calching@tcd.ie

Feminine Abject and Irish Gaze: Amanda Coogan’s Performance Art

My paper will analyse several of the more contentious works of the Irish contemporary performance artist Amanda Coogan, banding her performative vocabulary and what seems to be still dominant within Irish society, a patriarchal outlook. Articulated through psychoanalytical theory this study will demonstrate how Coogan performs the ‘feminine abject’ by paradoxically embodying a relentless ‘Irishness’. This study will argue that Coogan’s performances are characterised by a distinctive visual and symbolic focus on the female body which, finding its origins in her training with the artist Marina Abramović, always conveys controversial messages, especially when the recepient is an Irish context. In fact, w hat constitutes the essence of Coogan’s work, with her postmodern indifference to any kind of distinction between high and low culture, is neither an object nor an act, but the relationship between a shameless display of her female body and the spectator’s gaze. I will demonstrate that her performances, while destabilising the perception of certain Irish icons and symbols, embody a feminist critique that aims to constantly force the spectator to reflect upon the status quo of those social aspects and ethical values that appear to be still shared within Irish culture.

Velma O’Donoghue Greene– TCD- megreene@tcd.ie

Wild(e) Imaginings in The Extraordinary Play (1924) by Geraldine Cummins and Hester Travers Smith (nee Dowden)

Geraldine Cummins, a native of Cork, is a central figure in two discrete configurations of collaborative authorship under examination in my research, which concerns the recovery of works from early twentieth century Irish women playwrights. In her first writing partnership, with her fellow suffragette, Susanne Day, Cummins achieved minor success as a produced and published Abbey Theatre playwright. Cummins was also a published novelist and biographer, but it was in her later career in the field of psychical research, that she became more widely known and published. During this period (1919-1924) she wrote four, un-produced and un-published plays, with her Irish colleague and mentor in the practice of mediumship, Hester Dowden. Their co-written three-act drama, The Extraordinary Play (1924) was interestingly constructed from material created during a series of séances in which Dowden purported to be in conversation with the deceased Oscar Wilde. In this feminist, cultural materialist analysis of The Extraordinary Play I explore how these women, marginalized by their gender and, arguably, their non-conformist lifestyles, attempted, with this play, to create a novel mode of production in the public arena of theatrical discourse. The play is revealed as a discourse of Cummins’ and Dowden’s psychical research, including the interesting identification with Oscar Wilde, and the playwrights’ attempt to conflate the genres of melodrama and symbolism. My paper considers notions of authorship and the relationship, if any, between metaphysics and creativity. Both thematically and stylistically the play inscribes the metaphysical, philosophical and theatrical concerns of its playwrights. At the time of its construction in 1924, Dowden and Cummins were living and working in London and in this respect, The Extraordinary Play is significant in its meta-theatrical, post-Wildean, Anglo-Irish depiction of early twentieth century London society.

Anne F. O’Reilly – anneforeilly@gmail.com

A Pietà de Résistance: A feminist exploration of the use of Christian symbolism in the staging of Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow

Iris Park– UCD- irispark7@hotmail.com

Storytelling and Stage Monologue – where one ends and the other begins

A woman enters stage left, middle aged nondescript clothing. She walks downstage her sensible shoes echoing her confident gait. The audience shuffles, the last cough expelled, here and there the faint glow of mobiles being extinguished. Lights down on audience, spotlight on woman centre downstage, diffuse light on rest of empty stage. No musical fanfare, no roll of drums, the audience waits. She starts to tell a story. Is this woman a storyteller or a character in a theatrical monologue? Is there a difference? I intend to explore the interrelationship between storytelling and theatrical monologue in the context of:

   * Points of contact.

   * Points of diversity.

   * Conventions.

   * Audience expectation – demands on audience.

   * Aural and visual elements of storytelling and theatrical monologues.

   * The Storyteller’s role in the storytelling performance.

   * The actor’s role in the performance of theatrical monologue.

Ioanna Papageorgiou – University of London and University of Patras, Greece -papag@upatras.gr

Oscar Wilde’s Salomé on the stage of Athens (1908-1940)

Oscar Wilde caught the attention of a relatively wide circle of Greek intellectuals around the end of the 1890s. Gradually, his notorious writings instigated a passionate literary controversy about the relationship between art and morality. In the midst of the controversy, in 1908, the German-trained stage director Thomas Oikonomou produced three different plays of Wilde: Salomé , Florentine Tragedy , and The Importance of Being Earnest. Oikonomou’s main aim was to bring Greek stage up to date with Western European theatre. The first play slowly captivated the imagination of the public, especially the literary one, receiving several productions until 1928, to be forgotten afterwards. The second play met with a relatively greater commercial success, while the third play, as well as the Ideal Husband, were only occasionally repeated. Actually, Wilde’s society plays would establish themselves in the repertory of Greek companies in the late 1930s, after having been staged by the National Greek Theatre. With those productions, Wilde was officially classified among the ‘classics’ of Western theatre. The paper, focusing on Salomé ’s productions, will endeavour to explore the criteria that prevailed in the choices of Greek directors and actor managers regarding Wilde’s plays, and how those criteria affected Salomé ’s performances.

Caroline Phelan– TCD – caphelan@tcd.ie

Female Representation in Nineteenth Century Italian Opera

My paper will examine the connection between the tragic heroines of ancient Greek tragedy and the tragic heroines of grand operas of the Italian nineteenth century. It will endeavour to illustrate the obvious, but more importantly, subliminal influences to be found in the operatic texts of the golden age of Italian opera which directly relate back to the attic poets of fifth century Athens.

Opera as a dramatic theatrical performance art has, since its very inception in Florence in the very late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries been heavily, influenced by Greek drama, myth and legend. This influence, in turn, has directly affected the portrayal of the tragic heroine, or as in many cases, the tragic victim, in the legitimate theatre as well as in modern opera. To illustrate these influences three plays by Euripides will be examined: The Bacchae,Medea and Hippolytus in conjunction with Verdi’s La Traviata, Bellini’s Norma and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Reference will be made to Book 1V of the Aeneid and the tragic narrative of Dido and Aeneas. It will not be the intent of this paper to discuss opera as a modern adaptation of Greek tragedy, rather to illustrate the less obvious connections in the performance space between the operatic protagonist and those of the progenitors of the tragic genre.

Mark Phelan– QUB -m.phelan@qub.ac.uk

‘Parody of Esteem!: Political Comedy and the Peace Process

The paper will examine two political satires written by Tim Loane, Caught Red-Handed (2002) and To be Sure (2007) both of which comically critique the larger political drama of the North’s protracted peace process. As over a decade of political negotiation draws to a close it has prompted the stage entrance of the most unlikely political double act imaginable as Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness recently (re)opened Stormont in 2007. This image of former enemies laughing together as colleagues has become iconic and marks a new (st)age in the North’s political development. However, as the initial incredulity and euphoria ebbs away some elemental questions remain. What was it all for? Why did it take so long? Did nearly 4000 people have to die for this? These fundamental questions freight Loane’s farces, transforming pantomime horses into Trojan ones loaded with ruthless polemical critiques of our ruling political elites. Below the comic surface of Caught Red Handed and To be Sure boils furious anger at the futility of so many deaths; so much suffering and sacrifice for what is arguably a re-run of Sunningdale’s 1973-4 power-sharing executive, which Paisley and McGuinness, ironically, helped collapse. This paper will examine how both plays explore and expose the political cynicism of the peace process whilst raising broader questions in relation to the political efficacy of comedy and its canonical relegation below ‘higher forms’ in Irish theatre historiography.

Sharon Phelan– IT Tralee- Sharon.Phelan@staff.ittralee.ie

Irish Dance: Intercultural Perspectives

At the turn of the 20C, the Gaelic League banned Irish dances of international origin in an effort to de-anglicize the national dance form. The criteria of assessment were debatable. Leaguers deemed step dancing indisputably ‘Irish’. It was a narrow viewpoint, as many Irish dances of international origin preceded Irish step dancing. In the 17C, the British adopted the French dance master system and repertoire and in turn the Irish adopted the British dance master system in the 18C. Subsequently, French, British and Irish dance masters traded dance types, thus contributing to each others repertoires. This intercultural relationship had a long lasting impact on the Irish dance tradition. This paper examines Irish dance from an intercultural perspective from the 17C. It outlines the contributions of the French and British dance master and it identifies international features within Irish dance type and style.

Ondrej Pilny, Charles University, Prague – ondrej.pilny@volny.cz

Irish Drama and Theatre in the Czech Republic, 2000-2007”

A mapping of the variegated presence of Irish drama and theatre on the Czech stage, with a particular focus on the contemporary state of affairs. The notion of the “Irish play” in Czech theatres is examined from a comparative perspective with Ireland and the broader Anglophone context, based on whatever critical analysis there has been of Irish drama in Czech. The process of selecting plays for production is discussed in some detail. Finally, the concluding section of the paper is dedicated to Ireland’s first time ever exhibit at the Prague Quadrennial (June 2007) and the way it has attempted to familiarise Czech practitioners and audiences with the practice of theatre in Ireland which, up till now, has remained a virtually unknown territory.

Noelia Ruiz –UCD- noelia.ruiz@ucd.ie

Devising Theatre And Performance: A Collaborative Form

Devising is possibly the most collaborative form of creating theatre and performance. When devising, all the collaborators are necessary part of the creating process from the beginning. This process involves a negotiation among the participants, which, ultimately, is fundamental for the resulting product. Hence, devising physical theatre and performance is specifically conceived from scratch as collaboration between director, actors, dramaturg, sound designer, scenographer, and other agents involved such as producers. This way, all the languages of the stage, at both semiotic and phenomenological levels, are intertwined during the creating process and they cannot be dissociated from each other in the resulting product. It could be argued that many play-texts are written with aural and visual elements in mind, as well as scenic actions such as stage directions. But play-texts are normally written by one individual, although for its performance a process of collaboration is needed. In opposition to the play-text, devising theatre is created through collaborative process, which involves all its agents to be co-authors, engaged in the creative process from scratch. Consequently, negotiations among collaborators are inevitable in the process of meaning-making, which determines the performance/outcome. This paper explores the negotiations in meaning-making throughout the process of devising Same Same But Different, a collaboration between Locus Theatre Ireland and Theatre Ta Tar Denmark, directed by Caroline McSweeney. This physical theatre piece was devised in four stages over a year, primarily in Copenhagen and also Dublin. It run in Project Arts Centre 25-28 July 2007 and in Plex Musik Theater in Copenhagen 26 Sept-6 Oct that same year.

Irina Ruppo Malone– NUIG- irinaruppo@gmail.com

The Irish Enemy of the People

When Henrik Ibsen’s plays were first produced in London, the result was, as George Beranrd Shaw put it, that he “attracted one section of the English people so strongly that they hailed him as the greatest living dramatic poet and moral teacher, whilst another section was so revolted by his works that they described him in terms which they themselves admitted to be … all but obscene.” Shaw described this reaction as a “phenomenon, which has occurred throughout Europe whenever Ibsen’s plays have been acted.” This phenomenon did not occur in the country of Shaw’s birth, however. Ireland’s incongruous status as a province of the UK conditioned its initial response to Ibsen. While in England and on the continent, Ibsen’s literary influence began to be felt after the public had seen his plays, in Ireland the situation was different. Dublin first saw Ibsen in 1894 when Herbert Beerbohm Tree presented An Enemy of the People in the Gaiety Theatre. By that time, most of Ibsen’s works were available in several English translations; some Irish authors, had already been subjected to his influence. Shaw’s Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891). Through a discussion of the press reactions to Beerbohm Tree’s production of An Enemy of the People , this paper will explore some the factors governing the course of the public and literary reception of Ibsen’s plays in turn-of-the-twentieth century Ireland.

Bernadette Sweeney –UCC- B.Sweeney@ucc.ie

Performing Landscape: a collaboration with stalker dance theatre, Sydney

I am currently working on a dramaturgical collaboration with stalker dance theatre Sydney on a project called mirror/mirror. Here the company interrogate the notion of self and other in relation to emigration/immigration and identity – In the words of stalker director David Clarkson:

Mirror Mirror plays with information and stories that are held within the body – in genetics, in movement patterns, in ancestry (Irish Celtic in particular), in improvisation and in memory. It explores how personal identity is not fixed but rather spread over time, place and space.

In this paper I propose to consider the performance of Irishness with reference to place. Where is performance located, and what is the relationship between place and performance? Between place and text? Between Ireland and the performance of ancestral/lost Irishness? The piece mirror/mirror as an exploration of self/other can also be read as an exploration of performance. In this presentation I will question my role as dramaturg, working across distance, idiom and time, with specific reference to photographic imagery. I will also show video documentation of work in progress by the company as Stalker develop this work in studio

Carmen Szabo– UCD – Carmen.szabo@ucd.ie

Suspended Between Human and Machine – Representations of the Post-Human in Performances by Stelarc and Operating Theatre

The theoretical problematics of the 21 st century focus on intricate ways of representing the creation of body and identity. The ‘old’, postcolonial binaries of self/other are exchanged for new constructions that apparently encourage heterogeneity and hybridity. However, the new hybrid body is complicated by the blurring of the boundaries between the human and the machinic. Post-humanism engages with the way in which new technologies stir up questions of ontology, discussing the move from the hybrid body to a symbiotic one that incorporates, internalises technology. The contours of the human body are redrawn, the skin becoming a portal of entrances and exists rather than a barrier. “The skin has been a boundary for the soul, for the self, and simultaneously a beginning to the world. One technology stretches and pierces the skin, the skin as a barrier is erased.” (Stelarc). This paper will analyse and question the theoretical foundations of post-human representation of the body in two performances that stress the issue of suspension between human and machine: Stelarc’s Suspension Piece and Operating Theatre’s Angel/Babel.

Kurt Taroff –QUB- k.taroff@qub.ac.uk

The Other French Neo-classicism: French Reinterpretations of Greek Myth: 1920-1960

In the inter-war years and after the Second World War, many of the most enduring myths of ancient Greece were reworked by French playwrights and applied to the unique conditions of their culture. Jean Anouilh, Jean Cocteau, Jean Giraudoux, Jean-Paul Sartre, among others, all contributed to this revival of Greek myth on the French stage. Certainly, these were not the first adaptations of the Greeks to grace French stages, nor would they be the last. But how do we account for such a concentrated succession of these revivals in such a short span? This paper seeks the links between these plays, it explores why these playwrights felt the need to revive plays with so strong a history rather than writing new plays (which all of these writers had already done in the past), and finally examines the benefits that these playwrights found in mining classical material and making it uniquely theirs. This renewed focus upon the Greek myth may be seen as having two main sources. First, and perhaps most obviously, the plays written during the Nazi occupation reflect the necessity and difficulty of expressing a deeply political message while evading the watchful eye of the censor, who was certain to reject any work that overtly professed an anti-Nazi message, and would be likely to cause considerable trouble for its author. Second, borne out of the uncertainty of the period, there seems to be an appeal to universality, to stories and myths embedded deep in a cultural consciousness that reflect the enduring nature of civilization, if not necessarily political empire. Indeed, these plays often seem a response to a fear that tragedies could no longer be written in the modern era, beset by a wavering belief in both gods who may control our fates and great men to take on the role of the tragic hero. These plays attempted to address the question of whether the great tragedies, even if slightly altered, were capable of having an impact upon a modern world very much in crisis. It is a question we are still asking today.

Shelley Troupe– NUIG- shezabelle@aim.com

The Dublin Jewish Dramatic Society

This essay investigates the Dublin Jewish Dramatic Society, an amateur theatre active between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and its 1926 production of Israel Zangwill’s The Melting Pot. I will contextualize the concerns of Jews living in Ireland in the mid-1920s and argue that the productions offered by the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s National Theatre, did not reflect the concerns of all Irish citizens and, therefore, created a space for experimentation for companies such as the Dublin Jewish Dramatic Society.

Eva Urban– UCD- evakristina.urban@gmail.com

Caricaturing Iconographies or Puppet Masters out of control in Tim Loane’s To be Sure or How to count chickens when they come home to roost and Caught Redhanded or How to prune a Whin Bush

Like Frank McGuinness, Belfast playwright Tim Loane deconstructs ideologies through many meta-theatrical and inter-textual elements. Following in the footsteps of another Belfast playwright, Stewart Parker, Loane designed his theatrical comedies as political critiques, perhaps somewhat in the tradition of Moliere’s masked criticism of society. His characterisations can be called caricatures in the sense of the French enlightenment form coming from the Italian artistic term “caricare” in the 16 th century defining a ‘picture or other representation that exaggerates the particular physical or facial features, dress, or manners of an individual to produce a ludicrous effect.’ Naming himself a follower of Dario Fo’s Italian commedia dell arte style farces highlighting political corruption, hypocrisy, injustice and oppression, Tim Loane seeks to satirise similar issues in the politics of Northern Ireland. However, in his two parallel comedies Caught Redhanded and To be Sure Loane moves beyond the genres of satire and caricature by introducing an element of puppet imagery into Northern Irish theatre. In this discussion the puppet imagery will be employed in relation to performance analysis and in the literary sense of traditional European stories.

Kevin Wallace –UCD-kevwallace365@yahoo.co.uk

“In Love and Darkness we are Dismembered”: The performance of violence and desire in Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats and Sarah Kane’s Cleansed.

Julia Kristeva argues that within the theatre of catastrophe “the only event within the semiotic limit of the representable […] is death.” With this argument in mind this proposed paper will examine the implied scenographies of Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats (1998) and Sarah Kane’s Cleansed (1998) as theatres of catastrophe. Kristeva contends that the semiotic is a space of “forgetfulness and death”, this paper will argue that spaces within these plays function both as spaces of death and forgetfulness, and as spaces of memory, re-enactment and repetition. Engaging with Kristeva’s concepts of the semiotic and monumental time this paper will argue that a gendered dramaturgy of loss is constructed in each of these plays; a dramaturgy involving loss of the ideal, loss of the Other, loss of childhood and of innocence. This analysis will draw on psychoanalytic, gender studies and performance theories to interrogate the construction of subjectivity in relation to monumental time and the impact that has on the representation of gender in the plays. Specifically this paper will consider the use of repeated images of violence, desire and transformation in the plays and the connections between them. In the theatres of Carr and Kane, violence is both physical and psychological. It exists at the level of the subject and the gendered body. This violence takes the forms of mutilation and death, murder and suicide, but it is twinned with a desire for a radical alterity – an impossible desire for something lost, something dead and something beyond language.

Ian Walsh– UCD- ian.walsh2@ucdconnect.ie

Anticipating the Postdramatic: Jack Yeats’s La La Noo

Robin Skelton writes of the drama of Jack Yeats that it ‘freed itself from the conventions of the drama of its time, breaks all the laws of unity, and challenges all contemporary preconceptions of what is dramatic.’ With this in mind it is the aim of my research paper to explore the form of Jack Yeats’s enigmatic play La La Noo (1942) in the context of postdramatic performance. I argue that in its treatment of character, time and space this neglected play anticipates much of Hans Thies-Lehmann concept of the Postdramatic Jack Yeats’s plays have suffered neglect due to their unusual theatrical form with most academic studies valuing them only as counter-illumination of his brother’s poetry, as a reinforcement of the metaphors of his own painting and as a precursor of the work of his friend Samuel Beckett. Through my examination and location of La La Noo as a postdramatic text, it is hoped to avoid such a reading of Jack Yeats’s play and instead focus on the contemporary performance potentialities of his script. It is hoped that such an investigation should show Jack Yeats’s worth as one of Ireland’s most innovative dramatists whose work should not only be re-read but re-performed.

Eric Weitz– TCD- eweitz@eircom.net

Who’s Laughing Now? Currents of humour in African-Irish theatre

This paper will examine the positioning of two dramatic texts in ways surely unforeseen during their writing as produced in the past few years by Arambe Productions theatre company. Relatively recent productions of Kings of the Kilburn High Road by Jimmy Murphy and Dilemma of a Ghost by Ama Ata Aidoo pick up intriguing highlights from the continuum of playwright-to-audience as refracted through contemporary Dublin production. Nowhere do these unforeseen currents manifest themselves so explicitly as in the humour transaction, which solicits a bodied confirmation (through laughter) of ‘what goes without saying’ between stage and spectator. In the first instance, it is fascinating to unpick some of the strands of humorous intent as aimed for its first audiences, then refocused through African actors for a multicultural audience, and resonating additionally for those spectators who possess knowledge of the text’s originating circumstances. In the second, we find ourselves in a position to triangulate the fault lines of humorous discourse in a play produced for a New Irish audience about an American woman injected into African culture. These distinct variations on the relationship between text, production, and audience stand to tell us much about the subtle resonances of the humour transaction with particular regard to writing, performance, and spectatorship at a fulcrum point in our new multicultural society.

Steve Wilmer– TCD- swilmer@tcd.ie

Performing Antigone in the Twenty-first Century

By defying Creon’s edict and burying her brother, Antigone challenges normative gender roles and social and political conventions in a manner that is resonant in many countries today. In this paper I will assess some of the recent adaptations of this play, and in particular Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes (first staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2004 and revived in 2008) as a critique of British and American imperialism. By comparing such productions as The Island, Antigona Furiosa, Antigone in New York and The Burial at Thebes, we can appreciate how the state of exception, theorized by Giorgio Agamben, has become normalized. We see parallels between the “exceptional” actions of governments such as the Argentinian dictatorship and the Bush administration using the powers of “extraordinary rendition” to send prisoners to secret locations around the world for “interrogation” and possible trial and execution. Thus, in reviewing these various versions of Antigone, we can learn something about the world in the twenty-first century, e.g. the similarities in the ontological status of the imprisoned in Robben Island, the “disappeared” in Buenos Aires, the homeless in New York, and the detainees in Guantánamo Bay. More worrying is Slavoj Žižek’s gloss on Agamben’s position that “in ‘today’s post politics,’ the very democratic public space is a mask concealing the fact that, ultimately, we are all Homo sacer.” This makes Antigone all the more relevant.

Rebecca Wilson– NUIG- rebecw@oceanfree.net

The melodramatic dramaturgy in the work of Marina Carr

This paper is concerned with the melodramatic dramaturgy in the work of Marina Carr, particularly By the Bog of Cats. This play’s alliance with classical Greek tragedy has been much commented on; the play also has affinity with another seminal dramatic form, melodrama. The play is replete with acknowledged elements from the melodramatic repertory: hyperbolic figures and situations; lurid and extravagant events; masked relationships; dramatic confrontation and peripety; spectacular excitement; dramatic and spectacular apparitions; struggle and combat; villains and innocent victims; betrayal as a personal version of evil; claustration and the thwarted escape; vows and betrayals; poison; daggers; obsession; eviction of abode; documents; the dead child; high-voltage emotionalism that accelerates to a sensational image. Underlying is a manichaestic polarisation of good and evil, the ineffectuality of good notwithstanding. In performance these elements are enhanced as the intensity of hyperbolic feeling and situation are fleshed in substantial imagery. The set, a petrified landscape, resonates with melodrama’s use of mise-en-scène as exteriorisation of inner states, an active presence in the narrative. The mingling of uncanny, unearthly beings with more material characters is a feature of Gothic melodrama. An iconic construct of melodrama (one which does not appear on stage in Attic tragedy) is the sensation scene. Hester, in her charred wedding dress, raving in front of blazing backdrop while her brother’s ghost stands in the flames, then sings, is comparable to melodrama’s most extreme sensational excesses. Hester slashing her small daughter’s throat, followed by her danse macabre with the Ghost Fancier, climaxing with the knife that murdered her child thrust in her own heart, and her heart lying exposed on her chest is a melodramatic sensation scene par excellence – you wouldn’t get better in 19th century Surreyside melodrama or the Boulevarde de Crime in Paris. For Peter Brooks, melodrama is a constant in the modern imagination. Richard Pine claims that “melodramatic elements can be detected in modern Irish plays” and that “melodrama has…strengthened the development of Irish playwriting by the contribution of its intrinsically valid elements”. These concepts are the burden of this paper.

Marilena Zaroulia– UCD- Marilena.Zaroulia@ucd.ie

Contextualising Reception: Martin McDonagh in Athens (via London); a Question of Belonging

This paper seeks to explore the question of ‘performance context’ by investigating the reception of contemporary Irish playwriting in a different national and theatrical framework. I will discuss the staging and critical reception of Martin McDonagh’s plays in Athens, since the late 1990s (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, [1998], The Lieutenant of Inishmore, [2003], and The Pillowman, [2005]), looking at particular performance choices that Greek practitioners made in order to ‘bridge’ the cultural difference between the ‘Irishness’ of the plays and the ‘Greekness’ of the audiences.

My aspiration, though, is to investigate the role of a third factor that operates as a ‘context’ for the reception of McDonagh’s writing in the Greek capital: the avalanche of contemporary English plays presented in Athens at the turn of the third millennium. Indeed, reviewers often blur the playwright’s Anglo-Irish identity with the theatrical sensibility of the ‘new brutalists’; given that the ‘in-yer-face playwrights’ were considered ‘Other’ for the Greek audience and experience, my main question will be: Is McDonagh also the ‘Other’? Where does he belong and how was this belonging  articulated in Greek performances of his plays?

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