‘players and painted stage’
8-9 May 2009 IT Sligo
Brennan, Fiona, “ County Kerry’s Celebration of Synge in the heart of Sliabh Luachra”: Sliabh Luachra can be loosely described as those parts of Cork and Kerry which straddle the highlands of the Upper Blackwater Valley. The area is renowned for its unique culture in the “Sliabh Luachra Style” of music, poetry and dancing, which has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. At the heart of Sliabh Luachra lies the little village of Scartaglin which has a long tradition of dramatic entertainment. Sliabh Luachra Drama Group, which is based in the village, continues this tradition and this year celebrated the centenary of J.M. Synge’s death with their sold-out productions of The Shadow of the Glen and The Tinker’s Wedding. The Group, which is entirely amateur, will continue to celebrate Synge’s links with Kerry by hosting a Synge Drama Workshop in Scartaglin, conducted by Abbey Associate Artist, Conall Morrison, and will also organise and participate in a Synge Symposium hosted by Siamsa Tire, Tralee in association with the Drama and theatre Studies Dept., UCC. This paper will consider Kerry’s creative influence on Synge following his visits. It will also consider the enduring appeal, to the Kerry community, of Synge’s plays and the dramatic, cultural and imaginative approach of Sliabh Luachra Drama Group’s recent productions.
Burke Patrick, “Amateur Theatre versus Am. Dram.”: I have been involved with amateur drama in Ireland, as actor, director and adjudicator, for more than forty years. In the light of that experience, I will argue that the amateur movement in Ireland, in comparison to those in the UK, Europe and North America, is, in many ways, sui generis, encompassing, at one extreme, work of professional standard, and, at the other, stage activity essentially social in function. I hope to address issues such as artistic truth and technique, training, political dimensions, future prospects. Finally, setting aside the over-determined context of awards and prizes, I want to attempt the achievement of amateur theatre in Ireland over its seventy-year history.
Caulfield, Mary Phillis, “Fashion advice…’leave your jewels in the bank and buy a revolver: Constance Markiewicz’s ‘regendering’ of the Irish Nationalist Dramatic Narrative”: Constance Markiewicz’s playtexts were just as much a part of her activism as her military efforts. This paper will consider Markiewicz’s plays Blood Money (1925) and Broken Dreams (directed posthumously in 1927) as a ‘re-gendering’ of the Irish nationalist play. Markiewicz’s female characters wear the mask of ‘Mother Ireland’ or comely maiden as a camouflage like soldiers in the heat of battle. Her female characters appear weak and without agency, yet their actions prove subversive and purposeful. Markiewicz challenges traditional representations of the Irish woman by subscribing to them and then reversing them, revealing that the nationalist’s blind faith in these images was sometimes a source of power for women and in their ‘unmarked’ positions women were at times more powerful than their male compatriots. In accordance with Paul Murphy and Frederich Nietzsche’s position that for an examination of women’s contribution to history it must equally be brought before the ‘tribunal’ and scrupulously examined, this paper will analyze and critique the writing, production history (or lack of) and mise en scène of these plays and use historiography, performance studies, spatiality, political theatre and feminist criticism to support and locate its arguments.
Clare, David, “The challenge presented by Marie Jones’s A Night in November to Irish-Americans”: I propose to examine the audience response to Marie Jones’s A NIGHT IN NOVEMBER, as performed at The Helen Hayes Theatre in Nyack, New York in November 1998. Being the story of a Belfast Protestant who “discovers” he is Irish, the play soothed the predominantly Irish-American audience by reassuring them that definitions of Irishness in Ireland were broadening. On the other hand, it also made them uneasy. First, it challenged their own self-serving definitions of Irishness (in organisations with a strong local backing like the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Roman Catholicism is a key component of Irish identity, even if Irish birth isn’t). Second, it seemed to produce guilt in some for having supported the I.R.A. either verbally or even with money, as the play’s main character, Norman McAllister, is just the kind of person who would be in danger from Republican attacks. The fact that McAllister’s discovery of his own Irishness is accomplished through friendship with Catholics makes unquestioned support for militant Republicanism deeply suspect. Finally, all of these audience dynamics were brought to a head by actor Dan Gordon’s speech after the final curtain, in which he revealed he was “one of the enemy” (a Northern Irish Protestant).
Colleary, Suzanne, “End of Story? A Narrative: The Self and Selves – Gendered Identities as Performative Narratives – An Analysis of the Joke arts of Irish Stand Up Comedian Tommy Tiernan”: One of the cultural phenomena to have occurred in Ireland over the last two decades has been the highly successful growth of the 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 paper wishes to conduct a performance analysis of Tiernan’s works through the prism of gender, narrative and story. In doing so, I hope to show how narrative and story function within the stand up comedic form, and to analyse the nature and function of performative narratives as engendered identities within the comic frame. Additionally within the performance works, I wish to address how these engendered performative acts may be understood to operate as a narrativising construction of the self, bound up then by extension with the construction of the communal self through story. From this analysis I wish to draw some conclusions both on Tiernan’s performance works and on the stand up genre, as possessing the potential to create dialogical space to create tell and test stories of engendered self and societal identity narrative constructions, and in so doing may be instrumental toward the creation of alternate narrative constructions of engendered self and selves within contemporary culture.
Collins, Christopher, “J.M.Synge and the ‘Divil’s Own Mirror’”: This paper considers the dramaturgical dovetailing of pre-Christian and Christian sensibilities in J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (1907). The analysis interrogates the authenticity of Catholic nationalist iconography, seeking to conclude whether or not Synge’s depiction of a ‘paganised’ Irish peasant culture was in fact a true representation, or indeed, if it was just ‘the divil’s own mirror’. Synge had an acute disdain for the dilapidation of a ‘pagan sensibility’ amongst the rural working class at the expense of bourgeois monopoly capitalism. Because of this, the dramatist represented the community in The Playboy as a savage totemistic horde that debunked the iconographic image of the God-fearing noble peasant. To talk of a ‘pagan sensibility’ in this context is not to discuss paganism as a religious practice per se, but rather to talk of Irish folk-customs, beliefs and superstitions (píseogry). The paper critically examines Angela Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary and James Frazer’s The Golden Bough in relation to The Playboy and concludes that the riots were a result of Synge’s dramatisation of the thin veil between two equally centralised orthodoxies that the Catholic nationalists had repressed from their iconography. Throughout, Synge’s dramaturgical praxis is considered as a consummation of cultural altruism that highlighted the strangers within his own house – the bourgeois Catholic nationalists. In conclusion the paper maintains that Synge’s sedition lies betwixt and between the lip service that the Catholic nationalists paid towards colonialism and Synge’s own dramatisation of a ‘pagan’ community that belied the increasing trauma felt among his Ascendancy class. And from this perspective, the mirror that Synge held up to the Catholic nation may have been ‘the divil’s own’ but as Christy discovers in The Playboy, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Conway, Frank, “Into the Abyss” is an examination of the sometimes difficult process involved in stage design, with reference to the design of the premier of ‘Ariel’ by Marina Carr at the Abbey Theatre, for the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2002.
Doody, Noreen, “A Bunch of feathers on a stick: from mask to image in Yeats’ Player Queen”: Yeats wished The Player Queen, to be a play of ideas; the play becomes the locus of his experimentation and development of metaphysical concepts on mask and image that would become central to much of his later poetic and dramatic work. The idea of the mask preoccupied Yeats from 1908 when he started work on the play, The Player Queen, to his completion of the play in May 1917. In 1910 Yeats abandoned the writing of The Player Queen for five years and resumed work on it in 1915. Much of Yeats’s earlier work on The Player Queen is derivative, particularly in relation to his precursor, Oscar Wilde, but in the later drafts of the play Yeats develops these earlier concepts into his own radical theories of mask: mask as instigator of civilisation and mask as the agency through which Unity of Being is achieved.
Among the manuscripts of the play extant from the 1908 – 1910 period, are three complete drafts that mostly lead up to a three-act version that Yeats was completing in 1910. There are, also, nine surviving scenarios of the play written during this time. Yeats summarises his early version of the play in the Queen’s words: “I can see that life is but deceiving and being deceived, that those who master it speak even to themselves in masks”. In these words Yeats contends that life operates on an imaginative plane and that those who succeed best at it assume various masks and take part in the play. In the later versions of The Player Queen (1915-1917), the mask is no longer the fulfilment of personality in the outward expression of an internal self but becomes an extraneous imposition through which self-truth or unity of being is achieved. Yeats moves away from a belief in all masks offering expression, to a theory where each individual seeks a particular mask, antithetical to self. Mask becomes the galvanising agent of personality. Yeats proceeds to show that it is through the assumption of mask that image is created – the Player Queen conceives of herself as queen, adopts the mask of queen and in the fusion of idea and person becomes a potent image, personifying all the qualities the people expect of queen, becoming for them something greater than herself, something which raises them up. “Everybody who looks at me must say “that is the very fountain of life, that is all I have ever dreamed of.” The Player Queen illustrates Yeats’s philosophical reflections on regeneration and cultural change. The unicorn is the central image of Yeats’s later drafts and combines in itself idea and beast: it is idea incarnate: the potent image. Yeats claims that – “Man is nothing till he is united to an image.” The central moment of cultural inception in The Player Queen should have happened in the union of image and woman. The unicorn is an image of imaginative power but it is a beast besides being an idea and has, therefore, the power to engender. But the unicorn remains virginal; he possesses potential power which cannot be transposed into the agency of change unless he physically unites with a woman. Yeats writes in A Vision, “antithetical revelation” is “begotten from our spirit and history”.
Doona, Liam, “Cuchulain Un-staged – Terence Gray’s scenography for his own un-produced drama and European scenographic modernism”: In 1925 Terence Gray published Cuchulain – An epic Drama of the Gael. (Heffer of Cambridge 1925): This illustrated proposal for a staging of Gray’s own treatment of the Irish legend is a significant – but arguably under explored document, in understanding important aspects of the development, dissemination and practice of European scenography and more specifically “what might have been,” in terms of the evolution of an authentic, new Irish Stagecraft. The book is highly unusual in containing 29 photographs of scale models of the production which accurately describe Gray’s scenographic intention, allowing us to visually map the design proposals against both preceding and forthcoming theatre design thinking. Whilst we can only speculate on the subsequent nature of Irish theatre making had Gray’s vision been achieved, it is clear that the established hierarchical relationship of text to scenography faced a radical challenge in Gray’s proposal. A theatre which privileged the visual and the literary in equal partnership may well have become a much more tangible outcome than was historically the case had Cuchulain become a staged reality within these formative years of Irish theatre making.
Gray’s interest in developing an Irish dramatic vision which is related to, and emerges from European scenographic innovation is carefully rehearsed and speculated upon in the visual proposals his book contains. They are of considerable interest therefore in considering how a distinctive Irish scenography might have evolved prior to the second world war had the technical and visual potential of his concepts been realised. There is in the work a strong sense of Gray rehearsing the creative strategies which will become the trademark of his subsequent tenure at the Festival Theatre Cambridge between 1927 and 1933, during which time Gray is increasingly recognised as a significant barometer of European scenographic innovation, and an important mediator in channelling diverse European influences into the British and Irish stage. His Cuchulain un staged is arguably as important as this later realised work in pre sensing a set of creative strategies and objectives which will describe pre war stage design thinking in Europe.
This paper proposes to examine and explore these thematics and place the proposals for Cuchulain within other key scenographic developments in terms of design, architecture and performance, thereby providing a refreshed sense of its historical significance.
Drohan, Declan, “Sleepwalking in Broad Daylight”: This work engages with notions of transformation in relation to performer, space and onlooker, and the manipulation of elements and the blurring of boundaries between daily and ritual or performance-specific uses of the body. The notion of ‘authenticity’ arises in establishing performer presence in the service of the narrative. There is a joy in facilitating a process where through time, patience and generosity of spirit, a group of people’s theatrical practice can be described as a ‘multivision’, that is a shared view of a group exploration which acknowledges rather than negates difference: where coherence is found through embracing the diversity of approaches, modes of expression and interactions within the performing group. It clicks into place, swims into view, finds form before our eyes as if always there, latent within the work. The challenge then is to find a structure which allows repetition of this incandescence in a public forum, a performance, a series of performances. As Leonard Cohen put it ‘bless the continuous stutter of the word being made into flesh’
Fearon, Fiona, “ChatroomSeptember 2008: An Audience Research Project”: In September 2008 Calipo Theatre and Film Company presented Enda Walsh’s play Chatroom as part of the Dublin Fringe Theatre Festival. The critical reception to the production was very good, with reviewers from RTE,The Irish Times, Sunday Tribune and the irish theatre magazine, all praising the performances of the young cast and the strength of the production. Helen Meany concluded that e ven ‘after a number of viewings, this is a disturbing, riveting piece of work.’ However, what did the social audience experience? Who were the audience, and why did they come to see this production? And in particular, how did the large group of teenagers Calipo specifically targeted to bring into this production actually decode the performance?
This paper will discuss some of the issues arising from a wider research project into social media consumption and arts participation among young people in Ireland, conducted by researchers at Dundalk Institute of Technology in association with Calipo and Louth County Council. The paper will discuss the reception of critics and social audience based on questionnaires conducted with the audience of the production at the Smock Alley Theatre in September and focus groups with two groups of teenagers who saw the production. Key will be an analysis of the authority of the performance, and the resistant audience whose reception of the performance is open to considerable interpretation and misinterpretation.
Fitzpatrick-Dean, Joan, “Irish Military Tattoos: Populist Theatre Spectacles of the 1920s and Beyond”: Beginning in the late 1920s, Irish military tattoos appropriated the colonizer’s martial festivities to celebrate the Free State army by forging an unbroken line of direct descent from the Fianna through great military men and their armies. As counter-intuitive as it may be, these tattoos were very popular: the Grand Military Tattoo staged at Lansdowne Road in 1929 attracted a paying audience of 100,000. Both tattoos from the Dublin Civic Weeks of 1927 and 1929 featured `fireworks, mass gymnastics, precision drilling, Col. Fritz Brase’s arrangements of Irish airs, and processions of Irish armies over the millennia, and an episode from Irish history that demonstrated the need for an army. As well as music, marching, and fireworks, soldiers were rehearsed, costumed, and choreographed in theatrical interludes: a historical re-enactment and a “military pageant.” A publicity still captures the spirit of these tattoos as “An ancient Irish Chieftain of the 4 th century greets an Irish Citizen Army Captain of 1916.” The former, looking Pythonesque in cape, tunic, and helmet, holds a sword and shield in his left hand and reaches across sixteen centuries to greet his direct descendent with his right. These Free State tattoos were expensive, carefully orchestrated extravaganzas involving thousands of participants and tens of thousands of spectators. Although less popular in de Valera’s Ireland, the tattoos continued through the 1930s and, in the 1940s, morphed into the Step Together pageants.
Grassi, Samuele, “Men from Mars”: queering sexualities in Frank McGuinness’s characters”: For the past thirty years, Irish theatre has undergone an unprecedented flourishing. Frank McGuinness shows that we can look back to a shared past as an acquired consciousness, hence as a form of resistance. McGuinness’s perspective mourns over traumatic events, while interrogating and questioning the past. This paper will analyse characters rather than (play)texts: in characters such as Pyper (Observe the Sons of Ulster…), Dido (Carthaginians), and Marco (Dolly West’s Kitchen), trauma provides the theatrical impulse to stress the redemptive power of performance; in Caravaggio (Innocence) and Micheál MacLíammóir (Gates of Gold), performance becomes an intimately queer re-telling of personal stories. Instead of providing models, McGuinness engages with agents-subjects of performance in performance. By referring to contemporary queer theorists, I will highlight the implicit rejection of forms of dichotomy in his dramas. Frank McGuinness gives specific attention to borderland sexualities with the intent not just to dismantle gender and other binaries, but also to shape an alternative aesthetics for Irish drama.
Hickson, James, “The Playboy not of the Western World: Colonised and constructed identity in Bisi Adigun and Roddy Doyle’s The Playboy of the Western World” : This paper will draw on; ‘Performance Contexts’, ‘Local and Global in Irish Theatre’, ‘Intercultural and Devising’, ‘Performances of Irish Plays Internationally’, and ‘Intertextuality and Theatre’. In 2007 Nigerian playwright Bisi Adigun and Irish writer Roddy Doyle, with the Arambe and the Abbey theatres, became the latest troupe to revisit, revive and revitalise J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World. Transposing, translating and transforming Synge’s original, the new Playboy emphasised pleasantry over peasantry, exchanged hostile riots for riotous hilarity, and entertained rather than enraged audiences. Significantly, though, Doyle has remarked how the play and its playboy – Nigerian Christopher Malomo – ‘introduces this county to some of its newer members, the immigrant community who are becoming the new Irish’. This essay, then, will examine the modernized, globalised Playboy adaptation and explore its presentation of identities, in order to suggest that although immigrant images are conveyed and challenged, they are also colonised, constructed and ultimately controlled by the Western characters, the Western audience, and their Western world. Thus, while ‘the new Irish’ are verbalised and visualised, Christopher is described and inscribed by audiences both on and off stage, who shape his story, stifle his voice and shift his identity. Ultimately, Adigun and Doyle’s Playboy overlooks the colonial construction of Christopher’s character, and is perhaps indicative not only of where we are now, but also of who we are now.
Hill, Shona, “The dying body in Woman and Scarecrow”: Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow explores the process of dying as a reflection of the way you have lived. The dying body therefore physicalizes the traces of past experiences and reveals how we shape our narrative and corporeal identities. Carr’s engagement with Greek tragedy and layers of mythic narratives allows death to function as an enabling process, rather than a punitive inevitability. Death, ghosts, suicide and sacrifice all haunt Carr’s work, occurring both on and off-stage. I will explore whether the pietá tableau can harness the potential threat of on-stage death and the female corpse. In Modern Irish Drama Susan Cannon Harris argues that woman is not eligible for the role of sacrificial victim as the materiality of the dead female body makes her resistant to idealization. In Woman and Scarecrow the female corpse of the pietá is not a signified victim but an unsettling resignification, whose materiality frustrates idealization and refuses the role of the Virgin Mary. I will address the potential located in the performance of dying and in the materiality of the dead body for evasion of the fate of tragedy for woman; an inert female non-signifying corporeality and passive victim.
Insinga, Monica, “Absent presence, freeplay and madness in Luigi Pirandello’s Enrico IV [Henry IV] and Marina Carr’s Ullaloo”: This paper will compare Luigi Pirandello’s Enrico IV[Henry IV] (1922) and Marina Carr’s Ullaloo (1991) according to a number of features that characterize these plays. Enrico IV is a play about an aristocrat who, during a parade in historical costumes has an accident, loses his mind and now believes to be the Enrico IV, German Emperor of the 11 th century. During the course of the play we find out that around eight years before the present Enrico seemed that have come back to sanity. However, since his life had been upset for so long, he decided not to reveal his secret to anybody, and so he goes on with his fictional life for all these years. Tilly and Tomred in Ullaloo are a couple living a surrealist life. On one side she is obsessed with the idea of achieving nothingness, while he is trying to grow the longest toenails in the world. On the other side they both have a creative literary interest. For all his adult life Tomred has been trying to write a thesis on “alienation” (arguably his unfinished masterpiece) and Tilly writes pieces of dialogues that she asks Tomred to perform on stage with her. These meta-theatrical and meta-fictional dimensions open up new levels of interpretations, which can connect this play together with Enrico IV [Henry IV]. Therefore, after considering links and connections between these two plays, I will argue that both Enrico, Tilly and Tomred are, in Derridean terms, absent presences engaging in a freeplay that goes on infinitely, in order to bear an otherwise unbearable existence.
Jaros, Michael, “Performing Ruins – Yeats, Beckett, and Irish Historical Pessimism”: William Butler Yeats and Samuel Beckett are often set up as ideological bookends to the Irish theatrical canon. Nonetheless, both often engage the same thematic concerns, frequently addressing issues of loneliness and failure in their theatrical work; each explores how these themes resonate within Irish culture. Both, in divergent ways, seek to build an antirealist body of work that attempts to come to terms with the fragmented nature of Irish historical experience in the first half of the twentieth century. Each dramatist stages a longing for either a stable Irish history (Yeats) or for a past comprised of “Irish” memories (Beckett) that inevitably fails to arrive and make whole a culture or subject. In the proposed paper, Walter Benjamin’s concept of the ruin, which stands as an allegory for the fragmentary nature of historical experience, becomes a central critical framework for comparing how each author stages these concerns with history and memory. My essay ultimately suggests that within their theatrical works , each explores a state of solitude which results from these failures, of being alone, onstage, amidst the ruins of history or memory.
Johnson, Nicholas, “’The Principle of Advertising’: Prose Performance and the Commemoration of Samuel Beckett”: At the beginning of his ruminations in Samuel Beckett’s trilogy of novels, Molloy says: “If I go on long enough calling that my life, I’ll end up by believing it. It’s the principle of advertising.” Beckett’s life, by this same principle, has been tied to nihilism. However, the “brand” of a fundamentally gloomy Beckett — marketed strongly inside and beyond Ireland — is at odds with local performative traditions (namely at Dublin’s Gate Theatre) which emphasise the comedy in Beckett. Adding to the confusion in the popular consciousness are biographical accounts of his kindness and generosity, together with the near-mythic status of the Beckett Estate in policing theatrical innovations. This paper will investigate the practice of celebration and commemoration of Beckett, identifying their plentiful contradictions that illuminate his complex legacy in Ireland. A key site of analysis will be the practice of prose performance, a productive transgression of the law of genre. Paradoxically, such adaptations are frequently embedded in notionally faithful commemorative events. This paper will argue that the relentlessly negative category of prose performance may advance commemoration beyond pure commodity and can bypass the humanist/anti-humanist debate surrounding Beckett, to nominate a more profound ethical praxis in the imperative of “going on.”
Jordan, Eamonn, “Theatre makers and not feral… beings: The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh”: This paper, a detailed evaluation of Druid’s production, will consider the different performance registers of Enda Walsh’s play The Walworth Farce. The paper will consider how Walsh blends together delivers a radical variation on the traditional Irish diasporic play, as farce or enforced farce becomes the ironic and contestational frame to misalign and misappropriate sensibilities and pieties often long associated by some with the Irish communities in London. Secondly, it is the relationship between text and performance that demands huge consideration. Despite the best efforts of the young men to maintain the farce and the facade of communal memory, deeper emotions trouble the performances consistently. That the acting could achieve such consistent simultaneity is remarkable in its own right. The director, Mikel Murfi brought great clarity to something that might seem convoluted and a wonderful playfulness to his direction. Walsh claims “my intention is to make a part impossible for an actor… to bring them to a point of despair”, disorientating the actor, who then can successfully integrate it, will lead to a similar type of dizziness for an audience. Murfi oriented his performers brilliantly in the face of that challenge, ably assisted by Sabine Dargent’s multi-functional set. Cocooned world, a sort of second life, or a familial “third space” the play has no real connection to reality, even if space and time connects them or locates them in relation to London. Traditionally, farce has been associated with a certain type of unrefined, un-rounded, characters, corrupt, deviant characters beset by villainy, selfishness, self-obsession, desirousness, with a propensity for infantile, or murderous leanings. The fundamental deprivation of characters of their sexual or vengeful longings, was put to one side by writers like Joe Orton, who was all too keen to allow his characters to have their way, giving licence to an almost ludicrous levels of deviancy and promiscuous behaviour, as well as a framework where even murderous activity was de-contextualised and deprived of the unfussy moral reflexes to such actions. Walsh takes some impetus from that type of work. Mikel Murfi suggests that “the madness which is in the characters is actually pretty attractive, and I’d nearly say playful”. F or Walsh, however, the characters “are not Irish builders, they are Irish theatre makers in a fucking council flat on the Walworth Road. I kept having to remind myself that they are actors, a director and a writer in a play… as opposed to deranged, feral… beings.” Finally, this paper will argue that t he diasporic dystopia on offer is contested by creativity, commitment inventiveness, free spirited nature of the performances. By the melding of a family story, a diasporic sensibility, captivity, and the performance of fallacious memory as dark farce, Walsh offers evolves the dramaturgy of Irish Theatre in another direction.
Kelly, Marie, “Questions about casting”: Casting is the first step towards bringing life to the dramatic text. Theatre director, Garry Hynes describes the casting process as ‘the single greatest interpretive act’ of the theatre. Choices made about casting form the basis of theatrical representation, and the impact of these choices can either challenge, subvert or perpetuate prevailing ideologies. Existing studies of theatre practice and performance analysis pay little attention, however, to this extremely important aspect of theatre-making. Consequently, a whole range of questions about casting remain unanswered. How, for instance might this term ‘casting’ be defined? What happens between text and rehearsal that specifically brings about the casting of a play? What processes are involved? Who takes part in this process? And, finally, what are the implications of casting on the impact of theatre performance? The aim of this paper is to address these questions by providing a theoretical framework for the analysis of casting as a theatre process. The study will test this framework through an analysis of selected examples from the Irish theatre.
Kurdi, Maria, “Strategic remodelling of Motifs in Synge and O’Casey by irish Woman Playwrights”: The paper discusses the ways in which Teresa Deevy, Anne Devlin and Paula Meehan recycle and rewrite certain themes and motifs prominent in Synge and O’Casey’s major dramatic works. This intertextual strategy will be seen as contributing to the women playwrights’ re-negotiation of the portrayal of female subjectivity in environments strongly dominated by patriarchal values.
Liddy, Brenda, ‘Troubles’ related emerging dramaturgies: the Charabanc theatre company, 1983-95”: Charabanc (1983-95), a touring theatre company was founded with a view to staging plays that primarily dealt with community issues and women’s experience in Belfast. Marie Jones, along with Eleanor Methven, Carol Scanlan, Brenda Winter and Maureen Macauley, were, in the words of Maria R.DiCenzo, “five frustrated out of work actresses in Belfast” who collectively wrote, produced and performed a play called Lay Up Your Ends. This play dealt with women in the linen mills in Belfast in 1911. Ian Hill also comments that initially Charabanc garnered its plots from the oral history of the city’s female factory workers and “exposed many of the social roots,-chronic unemployment, appalling working conditions-of the current troubles.” Their work established more challenging roles for women in Northern Irish drama. They were encouraged by playwright Martin Lynch, to pursue their writing careers. The play was performed in local community centres. DiCenzo refers to their work as “popular political theatre,” and explains how Charabanc’s work helped “to create a sense of solidarity between performers and audience.” They also formed the company Charabanc, with a view to creating a more harmonious society and alleviating community tensions. DiCenzo summarises: Class and gender offer new lines of identification in reconciling groups who are divided along political/sectarian lines. The plays provide the rare opportunity to encourage the members of one group, not to agree, but at least to sympathise with a character whose political views they would oppose in real life.
Most of the plays up to 1990 were written by Marie Jones, following the successful debut of Lay Up Your Ends, on the theme of a mill-workers’ strike in 1911. Plays such as Oul Delf and False Teeth (1984), Now You’re Talking (1985), Gold on the Streets (1986), Somewhere over the Balcony (1988), and The Hamster Wheel (1990) confront the divided communities of Belfast and offer new ideologies of cross-community co-operation and partnership.This paper will consider the collaborative nature of this emerging theatre company and its importance in the canon of female-authored drama during the ‘Troubles’.
Lonergan, Patrick, “Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman – The Ethics of Storytelling”: Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman can be seen as offering a commentary on the development of McDonagh’s own career as a playwright. His hero, Katurian Katurian, is an author of dark stories with ‘fashionably downbeat endings’. And, like McDonagh, he is viciously attacked not because of what he has written, but because his readers have misinterpreted his work. It is therefore understandable that there is a tendency in the criticism to assume that many of the statements made in The Pillowman represent McDonagh’s own views about writing.
This paper explores McDonagh’s career in terms of the three artistic principles expressed by Katurian in The Pillowman: that the first (or the only) duty of a storyteller is to tell a story (7), that “if you’ve got a political what-do-you-call-it, go write a fucking essay” (7), and that readers can “draw your own conclusions” (11) because “I’m not trying to say anything at all! That’s my whole fucking thing!” (16). My argument is that while it is possible to map these ideas superficially onto McDonagh’s oeuvre, the plot of The Pillowman offers a more complex treatment of the ethical responsibilities of the author. I conclude by suggesting that McDonagh’s work in its entirety can be seen as offering an exploration of the ethical dimensions of storytelling in contemporary Ireland.
Malone, Irina, “Ibsen in Ireland: Plays and Controversies”: In 1901, James Joyce criticised the Irish Literary Theatre for failing to produce controversial continental plays, linking this failure to the negative reception of W. B. Yeats’s Countess Cathleen (1899). The censorship being powerless in Dublin, argued Joyce,“the directors could have produced [Henrik Ibsen’s] Ghosts… if they chose … But, of course, the directors are shy of presenting Ibsen, Tolstoy, or Hauptmann, where even Countess Cathleen is pronounced vicious and damnable.” This paper will focus on the controversy that broke out in 1917 when Ghosts was presented in Ireland for the first time. Offering several parallels to the 1899 controversy over Countess Cathleen (most notably the involvement of Cardinal Logue on both occasions), Dubliners’ response to Ghosts provides an opportunity to examine Joyce’s early assertion in the context of the ensuing history of Irish theatre and its engagement with the public. This paper will draw on the history of the reception of Ibsen’s plays in Ireland, the Abbey theatre controversies, and the development of Irish dramatic realism to provide a more complex model of the interaction between continental playwrights, Irish theatre directors, and the Irish public than that suggested by Joyce.
Mannion, Una, “Your slough let fall”: the antimasque of the Irish in early modern performance”: Using Ben Jonson’s Irish Masque (1613) as a starting point, this paper explores the use of masque features and Irish emblems in two plays performed at the Werburgh Street Theatre Dublin between 1639 and 1640: James Shirley’s St Patrick for Ireland and Henry Burnell’s Landgartha. The masque, together with its structural feature, the antimasque, incorporates aspects of difference which accommodates issues of cultural resistance and otherness. Like Jonson’s masque, St Patrick for Ireland and Landgartha participate in the contest between two colonial populations in Ireland: the Old English and the New English, each grappling with the colonial problems of conversion, cultivation and identity. This paper examines the masque in the plays demonstrating the Irish masters as the subjects of the masque’s transforming agency.
Maples, Holly, “Exhibiting Social Change: Representation and the New Ireland in the 1979 A Sense of Ireland Festival”: In 1979 a large scale exhibition of Irish Art, Industry and Culture took place in London entitled, A Sense of Ireland. Strategically placed to boost tourism and business and foster understanding with Northern Ireland and the Republic, the A Sense of Ireland exhibition was presented in London to show British audiences the triumphs of Irish Industry and Culture, and to dispel notions of Ireland as backward thinking and reactionary. As claimed in the A Sense of Ireland programme, “The purposes of the festival are to present the best of the Irish arts, North and South, in a major international context; to demonstrate in England the depth and strength of Ireland’s heritage and contemporary culture; to make an important contribution to improving understanding and relations between the people of these islands.” Modernity, innovation and vanguard creativity was the aim of the event.
This paper argues that A Sense of Ireland performed changing notions of Irishness to the British public in the late 1970s. Taking place at the height of “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland, the Exhibition aimed to separate the Irish Republic from Northern Ireland through its placement as the “New Europeans,” while also fostering sympathy for the Northern Irish community. With an emphasis on contemporary art, music and industry, as well as featured exhibitions of the “New Irish Woman” and the increase in international industry, A Sense of Ireland exhibited not only innovations in Irish culture, but the “New Ireland” to their British neighbour.
McGrath, Aoife, “’The less you bump, the faster you go’?: Staged scenes of dissensus in Coisceim’s Dodgems”: In an imaginative scenographic intertwining of the spatial and the corporeal, Irish dance-theatre company Coiscéim’s latest work, Dodgems (2008), stages the meeting of citizen (Irish) body and alien (immigrant) body in the simultaneously exotic and domestic site of the fairground bumper-car track. In this electrically charged space, the dodgems and players, metal and flesh, persistently highlight and challenge the laws of place (Michel de Certeau 1988). Enclosed in the “belly” of the soon-to-be-extinct Celtic Tiger, the audience watches the many sides of the political divides in Irish society collide or swerve in and out of each other’s paths.
Philosopher Jacques Rancière defines his concept of “dissensus” as ‘putting two worlds in one and the same world’ so that the framing of a ‘given’ or ‘common sense’ notion can be disputed, and an ‘interval for political subjectivization’ can be opened (Rancière 2004). This allows the given “outside” placement of the non-citizen within a political system to be re-framed and interrogated. In reading Coiscéim’s Dodgems as a staging of scenes of dissensus, this paper will examine the possibilities for dispute and political exchange that are opened up by the convergence of dancing bodies in the interval of a choreographed space of difference.
McNamara Audrey, “ShavianDaughters: The Antidote to the Ideal Victorian”: Bernard Shaw used the social-political climate of the time to foreground his dramatic works. Hidden, however, under the ostensible subject of his plays was the subversion of the ‘idealised’ notion of woman in Victorian patriarchal society. To explore this subversion I will examine Widower’s Houses and Mrs Warren’s Profession in order to demonstrate how this subversion was the real impetus of his drama and how it added to the theatricality of the play, lifting them beyond the so called Shavian moralising.
Meehan, Emma, “The ‘Maya Lila’ performances of Joan Davis: changing methods, changing context”: In this paper I will discuss the work of Joan Davis, an Irish choreographer and dancer, whose work evolved away from mainstream cultural arenas and methods of presentation, drawing audiences mostly by word of mouth to free site-specific performances in an outdoor amphitheatre space in Co. Wicklow. Davis set up the first contemporary dance company in Ireland in the late 1970s, touring Ireland and abroad. Disillusioned with the available approaches to creating and presenting dance, she engaged in body-based therapeutic trainings, and later combined her arts and therapeutic practices into a programme of modules available to the public. Since 2002, Davis has explored a research project called “Maya Lila” with the support of the Arts Council, whereby she examines the core of dance as ritual, therapeutic, performance and social practice. Davis designed and constructed an amphitheatre space overlooking the sea, providing a suitable venue to present her performance events with a troupe of professional dancers. I will explore why Davis has sought to stage these events in such a context, looking at both pre-Christian and postmodern influences on her work. I will analyse how Davis’ approach contributes to performance practice in Ireland, particularly in relation to dance and physical theatre, indicating the theoretical and practical issues that arise from her explorations.
Murphy, Paul, “Hegemony and Fantasy in Irish Drama”: Now that Irish drama studies has a sound platform in terms of historicization, particularly regarding the relationship between drama, state formation and national identity, the time is ripe to engage in research which questions that relationship, specifically in terms of the disjunction between nation, class and gender in the Irish cultural context. This paper offers alternatives to the predominant thematic framework of Irish drama studies by foregrounding issues of class and gender rather than that of nation or national identity, which has formed the superstructure of many debates in Irish drama studies for many years. The paper will focus on the work of playwrights Walter Macken and Frank Carney in order to engage with elements of class and gender politics which have frequently been relegated to the background of Irish cultural politics, particularly during the second quarter of the 20 th Century.
O’Gorman, Roisin, “Celtic Tiger as Irish Bull: Digging the Dance Macabre of Irish Mythologising”: In their 2005 internationally successful production, The Bull, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre Company satirizes the newfound (short lived) wealth of the nation, confronting the audience with a blood thirst and competitiveness that punctures the new mythologies forming around notions Irish entrepreneurialism.
The Bull , the second piece in their mid-land trilogy, re-works the epic saga of An Táin into a contemporary Irish setting, where Maeve and her husband are wealthy property developers in the west of Ireland and the desired prize bull which she tries to claim is in the hands of The Cullens, a cursed family of labourers. The work layers this adaptation into a parody of Irish self-aggrandizing, targeting in particular the myth of the Celtic Tiger (before its current demise). In this prescient production Michael Keegan-Dolan weaves a compelling choreography of these elements on the shifting ground of layers of loose earth that constitutes the set. The Bull tramples simplistic notions of national identity, heroism and family loyalties and charges the audience to consider the savagery not just of our history but of our present and the depth of our proclivity for violence even as we enjoy the full force of the macabre humour of the performance.
O’Gorman, Siobhan “Marina Carr’s Re-imaginings of Shakespeare’s King Lear: Meat and Salt and The Cordelia Dream”, Marina Carr has overtly conversed with the canon of western theatre throughout her career as a playwright. This paper will focus on two of her plays which use Shakespeare’s King Lear as their inspiration. The paper will examine the ways in which Carr has transformed King Lear into a magical and humorous children’s tale in the creation of Meat and Salt (2003). This play is based on a short story of the same name that Carr wrote, and particular focus will be given to the ways in which this story was brought to life in the production, whilst retaining its narrative quality. Similarly, this paper will examine how Carr’s new two-hander, The Cordelia Dream (2008), translated from the page to the stage. It will explore how subtle nuances of meaning, pertinent both to Carr’s dramatic oeuvre and to King Lear, were added in the play’s production. As well as overtly interrogating Shakespeare’s text, The Cordelia Dream incorporates such aspects of King Lear as its denaturalising of the parent-child relationship, and its probing of the natures of power and success. The paper will examine how Carr has re-imagined and contemporised Shakespeare’s text in two vastly different ways.
O’Kane, Emma, “The 20 th Century playboy by J.M. Synge: From “‘sexy and wild’ to ‘pastoral numbskulls’ and back again”: During the twentieth century ThePlayboy of the Western World has mutated in the public consciousness from scandalous artistic swagger to national treasure. The Playboy has been subject to a re-viewing which this investigation will work towards mapping in order to discover how and why this play has become not simply the performance of a text but, the recitation of previous performances of that same text. We will see that it is in the acceptance or rebuttal of considered performance strategies that each new production acquires contemporary consequence, with each subsequent production acquiring meaning insofar as it works with, against, or in disregard of the customary Playboy in which the audience is both expert and expectant. What proves most interesting here is to note that these ideas of customary have morphed over the century proving character delineation temporal in make-up and in flux independently of the text. There will be an emphasis during this upon newspaper archives and first hand accounts, with a view to using the malleability of the reception of text as a gateway into the cultural viewing and re-viewing of the everyday performance of class specific and gender norms.
Phelan, Mark, “ ‘Fair Play’ ”: The roots of the Irish Revival can be traced back to the mid-19th century antiquarian interest in folklore and folk traditions that subsequently became both source and subject for cultural production, especially in the drama of Yeats, Gregory, Synge et al. However, the advent of theatrical modernism and political nationalism manifested in the ‘institutionalization’ of a national theatre created a fundamental disjuncture between the material realities of these native practices and their modernist representations which sought to dehisce their subject of agency (and, by extension, discipline their audiences as citizens). This paper will examine this disjunction specifically in relation to Revivalist representations of Irish fairs and margamores and the riotous reality of these events as they frequently degenerated into faction fighting.
Plunkett, Conor, “A Quiet Coup from Above’ Putting the Global on the Local Stage: the Experessionist Legacy of the Dublin Drama League”: Although not firmly established as the hegemonic theatre it was to become in the mid 1920s, by 1918 it was apparent that the Abbey Theatre had reneged on its initial ideal to pursue the production of non-Irish and experimental drama on its stage. This lack of experimental theatre on the Abbey stage flew in face of Yeats’s and Lady Gregory’s own notion of what the national theatre should incorporate. The ‘freedom to experiment’ outlined by Yeats and Gregory in Our Irish Theatre was conspicuous by its absence from the Abbey repertoire in the 1910s. The Dublin Drama League’s main function on its establishment was to offer the theatre going public something other than the realist peasant play, so dominant on the Abbey stage.
This paper will explore how the Drama League’s influence helped shape the landscape of the Dublin theatre scene in the 1920s, particularly the latter part of the decade. It will also examine the place of the Dublin Drama League in the evolution of Irish drama with particular focus on the Expressionist plays of Sean O’Casey, Denis Johnston and Mary Manning.
Privas, Virginie, “A Love Song for Ulster by Billy Morrison, or an orange play for Northern Ireland”: The Marriage is the first play of Bill Morrison’s trilogy A Love Song for Ulster written in 1993 and first performed in the same year at the London Tricycle Theatre. It is an allegory for the partition of the South and the North of Ireland in 1921. The problematic bringing together of Kate, a Catholic from the South, and John and Victor, Protestant men from the North at the service of Great-Britain, may well echo the upheavals the nation encountered throughout the 20 th century. Yet, their union might ultimately reflect the aim to reach peace and harmony in Northern Ireland.
Within this piece, the notion of private property, notably in term of land, is crucial. Indeed, in his notes on staging, Bill Morrison confided that “the place is a house set in a landscape, the ownership of which is constantly in dispute. Therefore its boundaries are of great importance. The symbolic defined space matters much more than the furnishings which should be basic.” That is why Kate and John’s house is the location where the entire intrigue takes place.
In this paper I will concentrate on the playing of actors as written in Bill Morrison’s text. I will particularly focus on the way the actors’ body becomes the very place where the Northern Irish problem arises, where the Northern Irish tensions are held. I will therefore refer to the notion of “heterotopias” made up by the French philosopher Michel Foucault. I shall ultimately study the link between the actors’ body and national symbols so as to tackle the question of the colour of the play. Since Morrison was brought up in a Northern Irish Protestant family, we may indeed wonder if the play is orange, i.e. British.
Remoundou-Howley, Anastasia, “’Paint it Dark’: Aidan Carl Matthews’ The Antigone between text and performance”: This paper explores the dynamics of modification of the myth of Antigone in the loose adaptation by Irish playwright/poet/novelist Aidan Carl Mathews. In his subversive appropriation which was written and performed in Dublin during the turbulent period of the 1980s, Mathews rehearses a brave metatheatrical experiment and provocatively politicizes the aesthetic via the employment of a female icon: his rereading and rewriting of the Sophoclean original, on the one hand, underscores his belief in the centrality of instability the character of Antigone engenders in philosophy, theories of subjectivity, art and literature, and here, in modern theatre practices. On the other hand, he questions the tragic heroine’s iconic stature as a ‘classic’ with savage humour and irony: through a series of paradigmatic interventions (textual/ ideological/ performative), he destabilizes her classical identity as Greek canonical text, myth, archetype, and heroine and replaces it with a fantasy of Antigone as the anti-heroine, the martyr, the alienated scapegoat, ‘the ultimate symbol of the ineffectual’ that plays the same role of the dissident for centuries now.
Sihra, Melissa, “Re-location and Re-locution: An African adaptation of Synge”: In addition to considering broader processes of theatrical adaptation, this paper will explore a little-known Ugandan adaptation of J.M. Synge’s The Shadow of the Glen, by Ugandan dramatist Robert Serumaga and his one-Act play The Trick. In re-locating Synge’s drama to a Ugandan mise en scene, intercultural processes of representation and authorship necessarily arise. This paper will look at the ways in which Serumaga’s dramatic vision and re-locution of Synge’s play casts a new light on the familiar, as well as offering compelling alternative cultural contexts and understandings.
Szabo, Carmen, “Place and Non-Place: Discussing Physicality and Identity in Barabbas Theatre’s Circus”: In his approach to postmodernism, Fredric Jameson considers that post-modern art and architecture are symptomatic of the dilemma, in which the resolution of the individual’s practice into a ‘known’ spatial, social or ideological totality has come under question. This postmodern condition of the artistic space is also reflected in notions of identity which move from the binary opposition Self-Other, through hyphenated identities, towards a hybrid identity that refuses homogeneity and thus encourages multiplicity and fragmentation. The performance of art itself becomes a hybrid of the place and the public. Within this context, the non-site becomes an abstract mapping of absent spaces within the artistic space and there is a continuous confrontation between the two, given the attempt of the institutional artistic space to limit the site, to engulf and assimilate it thus erasing it. The importance of the non-site becomes vital within the discourse of contemporary art by trying to point to the site, tracing boundaries within the space of the gallery and enhancing the aesthetic reception of the site.
This paper will attempt a spatial discussion of identity in Barabbas Theatre’s new production Circus through principles of performance studies and spatial philosophy. It will also refer to Federico Fellini’s La Strada as a starting point for the creation of this fascinating production performed in the Project theatre in Dublin.
Urban, Eva, “Remodelling Mythologies: Field Day’s ‘Fifth province’ and Frank McGuiness’ Ulster Plays”: This paper explores how in his plays Carthaginians (1988) and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme (1985), Frank McGuinness uses the subversive power of theatre to create iconoclastic characters who rebel against the oppressive manipulation of history by ideologues, and to remodel destructive mythologies by dramatizing pluralities in the context of the Northern Irish community. McGuinness’ strong partly expressionist picture in Carthaginians celebrates and critically explores his own, Catholic background. He dramatizes the Northern crisis of community and identity, in the wake of the tragedy of Bloody Sunday 1972, which significantly shaped Catholic consciousness North and South of the border. Conversely, in Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme, McGuinness imagines the Ulster Unionist viewpoint with a sense of the particularities as well as the similarities among both Northern Irish communities. Between them, the plays subvert the need for a historical identity, constructed upon ancestral conflict and blood-sacrifice, common to both communities.
Wallace, Kevin, “Is heaven not so lovely after all?’’: The Other, language and subjectivity in Marina Carr’s Portia Coughlan and Marble”: Julia Kristeva argues that “the subject exists because it belongs to the Other. However, to confront the Other in speech is to confront, what Roland Barthes calls, the that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little, excessive. This paper will argue that in Marina Carr’s Portia Coughlan and Marble the key to the representation of the gendered subject is their discourse on the Other. This paper will take a deconstructionist approach to these plays, drawing in particular from Kristeva’s concepts of Otherness in Tales of Love: Freud and his Discontents and Roland Barthes’s notion of ‘amorous discourse’ from A Lover’s Discourse. The Other often as an ideal is in fact monstrous. In Portia Coughlan, Portia’s dead twin is also her lost love and it is her impossible desire for him and his haunting of her psyche that drives her to death. Similarly, the Other in Marble is figured through an erotic and compelling dream of death. It will be argued that the deep structure of the plays’ theatricality is based upon a gendered catastrophe, a crisis of idealization and difference that problematizes the symbolic and its systems of representation.
Weitz, Eric, “Sleight of Frame: Exploitations of the comic by three playwrights”: This paper suggests three ways in which contemporary playwrights have wielded generic feeling associated with comic framing to ‘trick’ a prospective audience toward various ends. In Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats … a sequence at the start of Act II builds upon several humorous gambits, which in concert serve to bring about the inverse effect of a joking reversal by suddenly withdrawing the comic attitude. Edward Albee’s The Goat, via astute manipulation of the humorous relationship between stage and audience stands to guide the spectator toward an emotional position which throws perceptions of non-heterosexual impulses into a starkly different light. In The Seafarer, Conor McPherson’s use of comic calibration contributes to a genuine reversal of generic expectations, injecting an affective boost for humour response into the play’s denouement. The paper concludes that these kinds of savvy generic manipulations show that the comic has deeper roots in our receptive apparatus than we sometimes credit, capable of affective, ideological and spiritual force unavailable to serious means.
Wilmer, Steve, “Performing Statelessness”: The asylum-seeker occupies both a local and an international position, straddling the borders of the nation state. By definition s/he is in a state of becoming (as Gilles Deleuze or Hannah Arendt might put it), an exile of one country and not yet a citizen of another. S/he is in a liminal state or in a kind of no man’s land, a non-person contained by the nation-state in a specially contrived holding centre, unable to work or function properly in society, effectively deprived of human rights, and subject to deportation at any time. This essay uses the writings of Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and Judith Butler to theorize the issue of the stateless person within the discourse of biopolitics and relate it to several recent plays and performances concerning refugees and homelessness.
Drama since the Greeks has often dealt with the asylum-seeker, from Aeschylus’s The Suppliants, Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus and Euripides’ Medea, to Shakespeare’s King Lear. This article focuses on four pieces: Donal O’Kelly’s Asylum! Asylum! about the status of asylum-seekers in Ireland; Christoph Schlingensief’s Bitte Liebt Ostereich, which deployed an industrial container inhabited by refugees in a central square in Vienna and encouraged local citizens to vote (in a kind of big brother knock out competition) on who should be allowed to remain in the country; and Janusz Glowacki’s Antigone in New York, which depicts Antigone as a homeless exile figure who tries to bury her lover in a Manhattan public park; and Janez Janša ’s The National Theatre of Slovenia, which reconstructs a national scandal concerning the governmental eviction of a Romany family. Each piece calls attention to the bare life of the refugee and the policies of exclusion in the nation-state.
Wilson, Rebecca, “Psychodynamics in performance: the dramatic exteriorisation of an internal world in John B Keane’s Sive and Sharon’s Grave, Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats and Tom Murphy’s Whistle in the Dark”: Pychodynamics throb in both the Irish ‘early performance tradition’ and ‘emerging dramaturgies’. Psychologist Melanie Klein’s hypothesis of ‘object relations’, whereby the infant perceives of others, notably the mother, as objects of necessitous gratification, is significant in the work of both dramatists. So is her allied theory of the ‘good breast’ nurturing mother and the ‘bad breast’ rejecting mother, and her assumption of the human unconscious as a seething maelstrom.
Hester (Bythe Bog of Cats) has been deprived of mothering or ‘maternal function’, deprived of maternal and paternal regulation and nurture and thus deprived of subjectivity. She lives in a world without rules, without regulation, without a moral code, a world at the mercy of deep-seated primitive drives and emotions. This is Kleinian territory, Melanie Klein, frequently called the psychologist of the id. In Keanes’s Sive, the mother-figure, Mena, is consumed by dissatisfaction and rage. She graphically embodies the ‘bad breast’ mother by resenting Sive drinking milk, then offering her milk as a bribe, then viciously rejecting her. In Sharon’s Grave, the deformed Dinzie, as well as being a dramatic villain, is an example of pure id and a personification of the Freudian ‘uncanny’, which haunts our unconscious.