ISTR Conference 2011

University of Pécs, Hungary |  29-30 April 2011




Plenary lectures

Carlson, Marvin (Graduate Center, CUNY): “Space and the Theatre”

When theatre studies became established as a new academic discipline at the end of the nineteenth century, one of its major concerns became a spatial one, to trace the changes in physical space theatrical performance had undergone from the Greeks to the present. For almost a century this interest was focused on the stage, the space of the actors, but in more recent times, as research interest has moved from how a literary text is performed as theatre to the operations of theatre as a cultural and social phenomenon, interest in theatrical space has broadened, and today involves not only the stage, but audience spaces, backstage spaces, and indeed the urban spaces in which the theatrical event is located. This paper will outline these changing concerns with the theatre and its spaces and will conclude with considering some of the implications of a new sort of space in the contemporary theatre, digital space, and some of the ways in which the exploration and utilization of this new type of space are changing both the practice of theatre and research into its historical development.

Murphy, Paul (Queen’s University, Belfast): “Ireland’s Haunted Stages”

Taking my cue from Marvin Carlson’s seminal book The Haunted Stage, I extend his argument that for audiences ‘ghosting presents the identical thing they have encountered before, although now in a somewhat different context’ to the recurrence of economic disparity and concomitant social injustice in Ireland as represented in Irish theatre across the twentieth century and on into the contemporary moment.  I will look at the metaphor of the revenant particularly in relation to the spectre of class disparity which has haunted Ireland and its stages for decades and is particularly poignant in the current economic debacle. Starting with the plays of JM Synge I engage with the issue of class disparity in the colonial era prior to the partition of the island in 1922, particularly in regard to the socially marginalized figures who constitute the protagonists in Synge’s plays who are themselves the shades of stage Irish characters who inhabit the plays of Synge’s predecessor Dion Boucicault. I will then engage with the plays of Sean O’Casey whose representation of the Dublin proletariat after the 1922 partition constitutes a ghosting of the same problem of class disparity which remains prevalent after independence from Britain has been achieved. This ghosting continues in the plays of Tom Murphy in the late 1950s and 1960s, and continues through to the 1980s, where social inequalities increased as the Irish state matured. I conclude the paper by examining how the socially marginalized characters in the plays of Marina Carr in the 1990s and into the 21st century are shades of those similar characters which have haunted Ireland’s stages over the last century. The representation of socially disadvantaged characters on the Irish stage constitutes a repetition or ghosting of the same social problem, only in different temporal contexts.

Session papers

Bach, Anikó (University of Pécs): “Adaptation and Intertextuality as Means of Revising Gender Relations in Brian Friel’s A Month in the Country

The focus of the paper is to investigate Brian Friel’s A Month in the Country (1992) as a “free version” (Friel 7) of Turgenev’s Russian original. What the free version in Friel’s own term means has to be examined from the point of adaptation and intertextuality. I will argue that due to an English translation made for Friel, his is an adaptation of the translated version that operates on an intertextual basis, holding a high intertextual intensity. However, claiming to which category of intertextuality Friel’s version belongs is problematic. Friel’s aim, as stated in the Preface to his play, was to produce a version that is not unfaithful, yet in places is irreverent to its original (7). Despite constantly keeping up an intercultural communication between the original and his own, it can be stated that the Irish version of A Month in the Country is a recontextualization of the original, by giving the former a new meaning and an Irish flavour. By focusing more sharply on the relationships between men and women, Friel tries to address the complex interplay of love, about which the Irish society was almost unable to speak for long. Dressed in a Russian coat, with characters addressed by Russian names, yet composed with recognisable Irish features, Friel’s play is absolutely characteristic of his own theatre.

Barrett, Tim (Trinity College, Dublin): ‘“Tell, Don’t Show”: Representations of Gender and Violence in Abbie Spallen’s ‘Pumpgirl’”

The monologue play, in its various forms, has generated debate amongst critics and audiences in Ireland and internationally regarding its claim to being a strictly ‘dramatic’ form. The monologue play’s rejection of embodied action in favour of narrated action challenges mimetic conventions of representation and calls into question the borders separating drama from other literary forms. Despite the persistent anxiety surrounding the monologue form, several Irish playwrights (most notably Beckett and Friel) have successfully harnessed its theatricality to explore themes of isolation, subjectivity, memory and (failure of) communication.

            The staging of Abbie Spallen’s ‘Pumpgirl’ in 2006 made a significant intervention into a lineage of Irish monologue plays stretching back to Beckett, a lineage which had enjoyed its most prominent period during the 1990s and early 2000s. The plays during this period had, for the most part, been composed by male playwrights and had concerned themselves almost exclusively with issues of masculinity. With one male and two female characters in ‘Pumpgirl’, Spallen shifts the focus onto female subjectivities and their construction of male characters, supplying voices and autonomy to female characters who had all too frequently been relegated to the status of male constructs in the monologue plays of McPherson, O’Rowe and others.

Bertha, Csilla (University of Debrecen): “Theatre within the Theatre: Self-reflexivity in Jim Nolan’s Blackwater Angel

Many of Jim Nolan’s plays probe into art’s, especially theatre’s healing power. Blackwater Angel (2001), revisiting Brian Friel’s masterpiece, Faith Healer thirty years later, explores similar dilemmas about the nature, the power, the burden, and the treatment of the gift, but here more directly linked to the theatre. This paper attempts to explore the ways in which the scraps of a play-within-a-play and, more generally, the presence of theatre, contribute to self-reflexivity in Blackwater Angel. In a complex web of overlapping, interacting, referencing, and reduplication, Nolan deploys not only the Renaissance, Shakespearean inset play (in addition to multiple echoes of Hamlet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and even Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead), but also draws upon the concept of the Baroque theatrum mundi, (Calderón’s) great World Theatre.

Caulfield, Mary (Trinity College, Dublin): “‘Mise i gcuis na hÉireann’: Constance de Markievicz, a martyr’s death?”

Throughout Markievicz’s career, she drew from and contributed to a tradition of female militancy and mobility to incite and inspire contemporaneous female action with the Nationalist movement. One figure in particular that personified female agency and ideal nationalism was Joan of Arc. Examples of Markievicz’s re-appropriations of Arc rest in a self-portrait entitled “the Good Shepherd” (painted in roughly 1899) and also at an Irish Women’s Franchise League fundraiser in 1914, when Markievicz once again depicted herself as Joan of Arc in a Suffrage tableau. Entitled The Great Daffodil Fête, this fundraiser hosted a series of thirteen tableaux on the 24th and 25th of April at Molesworth Hall in Dublin. There are two photos that captured this event, which depict a meta-transference of power as both the portrayed and the portrayers incite and perpetuate a legacy of woman warriors.

         Markievicz’s Nationalist career was haunted by France’s celebration of Joan of Arc, from her beatification in 1908 to her canonization in 1920. In 1929, two years after Markievicz’s death was the five hundredth year anniversary of her liberation of Orleans and the anniversary of Joan of Arc’s own death in 1931 would follow soon after. This paper will consider Markievicz’s theatrical reinvigorations of Joan of Arc and discuss how Markievicz’s time as an art student in Paris fuelled her artistic and theatrical renderings, and question whether or not Markievicz achieved her self-proclaimed goal of a martyr’s death.

Collins, Christopher (Trinity College, Dublin): “Synge in Italy: the pietá, the pope and the passion”

February 1896. J.M. Synge, the incumbent Parisian playboy quits the Left Bank and arrives, by train, in Rome. In Paris he has spent endless days drifting around the Louvre, while spending his nights discussing the integrity of art; never before has the purpose and the power of art been this pertinent. All his life, JMS staunchly believed that efficacious art should have bad manners; it should grab the spectator by the collar and teach them a lesson. But his theory on artistic practice was not easily accepted, least of all by Maria Zdanowska. In May Synge made his way to Florence where he befriended Zdanowska, a Polish student of sculpture and devout Roman Catholic. On day trips to Fiesole or wandering around the Pitti and Uffizi galleries, the two friends discussed the Catholic sensibility within art. But Zdanowska failed to understand Synge’s recalcitrance towards the permeation of Catholic religiosity in art and she desperately tried to bring the dramatist safely back within the fold. But Synge, the consummate wanderer of the wilderness, rejected Zdanowska’s passionate attempts to revel in the sublimity of Catholic art. By November Synge had left Italy and Zdanowska, for good. But just around the corner lurked W.B. Yeats, who would encourage the dramatist to explore alternative forms of art: mysticism, theosophy and ultimately, the pre-Christian sensibilities of the Aran islanders. The rest is, of course, literary history. Synge goes to Aran and returns with an iconoclastic arsenal of pre-Christian sentiment that permeates all seven of his plays. And if we are to appreciate Synge’s pre-Christian art within his dramaturgy, then we must concentrically consider his relationship with religious art. And this paper postulates Synge’s rejection of the Catholic religiosity within European art as a keystone to discovering the dramatist’s pre-Christian praxis.

Donohue, Brenda (Trinity College, Dublin): “Liminal figures in Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow and Emma Dante’s Vita mia

This paper examines the work of an Irish playwright, Marina Carr and an Italian playwright, Emma Dante. Both female playwrights show a recurring preoccupation with death, dying and living in their work. Contrasting the modern taste for signalling a clear divide between life and death, in Carr and Dante’s work the lines and divisions between this world and the next are not clearly drawn. A number of characters across the writers’ oeuvre occupy liminal spaces within the spectrum of life and death. Neither alive nor dead, these characters blur the edges of our modern understanding of death. Using Victor Turner’s theory of liminality, this paper seeks to investigate the position of two of these ‘betwixt and between’ characters, focussing on Woman in Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow and Chicco in Dante’s Vita mia. It seeks to identify, define and interpret their position within the wider context of death in Sicilian and Irish culture and indeed, the rest of the writers’ work.

Hartvig, Gabriella (University of Pécs): “Critical Approaches to Nahum Tate’s Version of King Lear in The Spectator

On the pages of his moral-critical journal Joseph Addison refers to the notorious “mending” of Shakespeare’s King Lear by Nahum Tate and criticizes the poetical method employed by contemporary playwrights who equally distribute the rewards and punishments in their plays. Addison’s objections to the happy ending in Tate’s revised version, which turns Shakespeare’s tragedy into tragicomedy, founded the general criticism of the play for the whole of the eighteenth century. The following paper will approach some of the alterations found in The History of King Lear by Tate from the aspect of the much debated aesthetical quality, poetical justice, as explained by Addison in the numbers 40 and 548 of The Spectator.

Haughton, Miriam (University College, Dublin): “Murdering Your Family: The Fantasy, The Reality and The Space In Between in Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman (2003) and In Bruges (2008)”

Martin McDonagh’s dramaturgy has portrayed a daughter murdering her mother, a husband his wife, a son his father, a brother his brother and of course, cat homicide. In The Pillowman, the first of McDonagh’s plays not staged in a fictional Irish community but in its stead an unspecified totalitarian state, McDonagh remains true to this running theme of familial trauma while in In Bruges, social and religious concerns replace familial tensions in this fairytale European setting. Though he has been applauded for his particular talent in staging interfamilial tensions that can lead to heightened crisis, analysis of his drama informs us that McDonagh is not dealing in naturalistic representations of family and civic life. Rather, the deployment of dramatic space in these works points to the follies and failures of established social structures that through culture and its hegemonic narratives have been reified as natural and necessary, physically evident and performative in the civic spaces they embody.

            By critiquing the socio-cultural, political and religious encoding of place in McDonagh’s drama, the boundaries between reality and fantasy are questioned and the transformative qualities of story enacted. This paper will be theoretically supported by the hypotheses of Richard Kearney, Michel Foucault, Anne Ubersfeld and Gay McAuley.


Insinga, Monica (University College, Dublin): “‘A special kind of thread’: Dreamspaces, changelings and death in The Mountain Giants by Pirandello and three plays by Marina Carr”

Luigi Pirandello’s unfinished play, The Mountain Giants (1934), is part of the second trilogy of plays by the Sicilian writer. Pirandello’s first trilogy, best known for Six Characters in Search of an Author, explored the world of theatre and its components, such as characters, directors, actors, and found that these elements went beyond fiction and became real in their own unique way. His second trilogy, concluding with The Mountain Giants, deals with “myths”, which go beyond the real and beyond the dichotomies of life and death, reality and illusion.

            The main action of this “myth” is set in a castle, where ghosts, actors, theatre, life and death can coexist, the only place in this reality where all these opposites do not exclude and fight against each other. Ilse’s theatre company arrives at the castle at the end of a very long tour, ready to perform once again The Fable of the Changeling, the last play by a poet, presumably Pirandello himself, dedicated to Ilse, whom he loved up until the end of his life. After his death, Ilse’s company continues to perform this play to keep the memory and the dreams of the poet alive. And when they arrive at the castle the magician Cotrone offers them the opportunity to keep the dreams, the changeling and the poet alive forever. However, Ilse cannot accept his offer, which takes her and the other actors to their fate.

            Dreams, death, the afterlife and alternative lives are deeply connected themes in Irish literature, constantly present even in modern and contemporary Irish drama. Contemporary Irish playwright, Marina Carr, deals with these issues on a regular basis in her works. Therefore, selecting three plays written in two different phases of her career, Portia Coughlan(1996), Marble and Giant Blue Hand (2009), I will show how the ghost of Pirandello’s “myth” play is echoed in Carr’s works through the influence of Irish culture and drama.


Johnson, Nicholas (Trinity College, Dublin): “Beckett and Bolaño: Toward a European Literature of Exile”

“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

“A losing battle from the start, like all the battles poets fight.”

— Roberto Bolaño, Literature + Illness = Illness

This paper examines the interface between two writers who never met: Samuel Beckett, an Irishman who left early in life for France; and Roberto Bolaño, a Chilean who ended up in Spain. It is an unusual interface, since the two writers were born fifty years apart and are not known to have read one another’s work. Nonetheless, in their trajectories from former European colonies at the “periphery” toward the Continent, these two artists enacted a related impulse toward exile in the “centre.” This paper will argue that through the gesture of departure from their native lands, both writers were exposed to currents of European history and thought that marked their writing indelibly. This turned their separate bodies of work into a shared performance of specifically European cultural currents, often a sublimated version of the nightmarish century they shared. Though many striking overlaps of structure and content across their oeuvres are apparent, the strongest bond between these writers can be found in their attempt to witness a historically constituted radical evil, and in their shared ethic — in the face of these extremities — to go on.

Jordan, Eamonn (University College Dublin): “‘The oul bones and the whatnot’: Martin McDonagh’s Gothic Comedy A Skull in Connemara

Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara (1997) displays certain morbid fixation with the transgressive, the de-consecrated, and the macabre, and is notable for its surreal de-substantiation of life, death, and the after-life. For some critics the taboo violations are utterly insensitive, making the work utterly offensive and juvenile. I will argue that it is a work which is part of a gothic “Funerary tradition,” to use the phrase of Pat Sheeran and Nina Witozek. Also the play has a lot in common with the profanity and sacrilegious nature of carnival, as propounded in the theoretical writings of Mikhail Bakhtin. The funerary tradition accommodates the grotesque, and waking rituals, while the carnivalesque furthers that, but also posits the de-sacralisation of spaces and temporary collapses of hierarchies.

Kerr, Aideen (Trinity College, Dublin): “Oscar Wilde: The Rock and Roll Kid on the Victorian Stage”

My paper examines the performativity of Oscar Wilde’s identity as evidenced in his dramatic output, his social performances and the popular Victorian media. This paper will interrogate Oscar Wilde’s performance of identity in the Victorian media during the apex of his career in the mid 1890s. It will examine Wilde’s social performances and argue that his vocal dominance at various social gatherings was a re-assertion of a queer identity to a Victorian audience. I will interrogate the Victorian perception of Wilde’s surface manipulation of identity, as well as the Victorian anxiety about manliness which reinforced gender binaries in society. This will include a variety of reviews of his plays as well as an analysis of caricatures of Wilde by popular Victorian artists like Beerbohm Tree. Amongst other theorists I will investigate Alan Sinfield’s suggestion that “the anxieties that attended the publication of In Memoriam, [a poem by Tennyson 1850; about his friend Arthur Hallam] Eric and Tom Brown’s Schooldays [best-selling school stories] reflected and contributed to a cult of manliness, which swept through the public (private) school system, especially in the form of compulsory organized sport… Effeminacy is not banished by manliness; it is its necessary corollary, present continually as the danger that manliness has to dispel” (Sinfield; The Wilde Century 1994; 62). Wilde’s unconventional adoption of the image of the dandy refuted this gender binary and afforded him a way to commute between various sexualities in Victorian society.

Mayer, Sandra (University of Vienna): “(Re)Politicised and Over(Sexualised) – Wild(e) Treatments on Twenty-First-Century Viennese Stages”

With Oscar Wilde’s recovery as ‘our contemporary’ and his successful reinvention as an icon of postmodern culture in the 1990s and early 2000s, the author’s popular society comedies have evolved into an inexhaustible mine of multiple signification, inviting a rich variety of interpretations and subtextual specifications. Particularly on the Viennese stages, where their enduring stage presence testifies to their unbroken popularity as audience favourites, the diverse schemes of adapting Wilde’s classic conversation plays for the twenty-first-century local theatre market often follow an ideologically motivated socio-political agenda that blends gender deconstruction and neoliberal criticism with (homo)sexual disambiguation. This paper aims at highlighting the various interpretive strategies employed by recent Viennese theatrical readings of Wilde, which make an essential contribution to enlivening the dynamics of the Irish playwright’s local reception and may ultimately be regarded as reflecting his canonical survival. In this context, special emphasis will be placed on the boldly idiosyncratic adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest by the Austrian Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek and its realisation as a ‘popmodern parody’ by Falk Richter in 2005, the centenary year of the comedy’s Viennese debut.

McAteer, Michael (Queen’s University, Belfast): “Theatre Reform and Social Radicalism in late Nineteenth Century Europe: Yeats, Maeterlinck, Strindberg, Ibsen”

This paper considers Yeats’s earliest plays for the Irish Dramatic Movement, including The Land of Heart’s Desire and The Countess Cathleen, as responses to developments in continental European theatre in the late nineteenth century. These plays have been positioned within the context of an emergent cultural nationalism particular to Irish circumstances of the time, specifically the fallout from the death of Charles Stuart Parnell in 1891. The history of Irish theatre and cultural criticism has also cast these plays as thoroughly idealist, representing Irish tradition in romantic and otherworldly terms. The reading offered here reappraises this perception to bring to the surface a particular form of social criticism in Yeats’s early drama that was linked in to the mysticism of Maeterlinck, the occultism of Strindberg and the uncompromising individualism of Ibsen in producing a modern vision of human alienation. Looking at plays like L’Intruse, Pelleas et Mélisande, The Ghost Sonata and An Enemy of the People, the paper illustrates how such quintessentially Irish plays as Cathleen ni Houlihan grew out of a wider revolution in European theatre as naturalist and symbolist movements emerged in the 1880s and the 1890s.

McGrath, Aoife (Trinity College, Dublin): “Acts of Citizenship?: Irish developments of German Tanztheater

Links between Irish dance practice and German Tanztheater (a socially engaged form of dance theatre) can be traced from the performances of Kurt Jooss’ company in Dublin in the late 1930s, through to the influence of choreographers such as Pina Bausch on current practitioners. This paper will consider Irish developments of Tanztheater and examine the critical anxiety created by dance works that use a blend of spoken word and movement to explicitly address socio-political issues and real-life events. Irish companies such as CoisCéim Dance Theatre and Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre are challenging the habitual primacy of the textual over the physical in Irish performance practice with their choreography of resistive dancing bodies that re-imagine narratives, subjectivities and cultural perceptions of the corporeal. In these companies’ works, reconfigurations and disruptions of the usual positioning of bodies in social structures and narratives allow alternative views of society to achieve visibility, resisting the oppression of certain corporealities and challenging the hegemony of others. This paper will discuss the importance of these recent Irish developments of dance theatre in light of their ability to connect with the social and political choreography of bodies in everyday life.

Nyisztor, Miklós (University of Pécs): “Connor McPherson’s St. Nicholas: Fiction and Morality in Postmodern Theatre”

In McPherson’s St Nicholas two parallel and profoundly intertwined concepts shall be investigated: fictionality and morality from a postmodern perspective. The journeys of McPherson’s monologists begin from a widening crisis of moral and psychological nature and conclude in a typical “hit-the-bottom” experience, during which not only does a story crystallize, but the missing moral dimension (re-)opens, re-embracing and re-spiritualizing the teller, the told and the audience for the moment of the telling. Although these stories become moral testimonies, it is in vain to expect an outright moral conclusion or attractive turn in the characters’ lives. Morality in McPherson’s world is the least based on a rational or religious ethics, an overt Code or Law, rather it bears the marks of the Levinasian or postmodern morality founded—if at all—on ambivalence and locality/temporality. The birth of the story as fiction (and not as discourse) is the birth of morality: it transforms story and storytelling into a personally or culturally crucial event, a testimony, a form of redemption. The moral field (otherwise unachievable, originally lost or forgotten) can be recovered in the multiply transgressive moment of producing and listening to fiction. Out of McPherson’s dramas, perhaps St Nicholas demonstrates the best the recognition of the challenge, the obstacles, and importance of presenting fiction, which is of great significance for contemporary Continental theatre, too.

O’Brien, Cormac (University College, Dublin): “By the Mire of Manhood … : Performances of Masculinity in Marina Carr’s ‘Midland’s Trilogy’”

Marina Carr is, according to Frank McGuinness, ‘a writer haunted by memories she could not possibly possess, but they seem to possess her’. It is this sense of deep and haunting historical memory, both personal and national, coupled with her distorted, and at times troubling sense of time, which results in her creating male characters – and some female masculinities – that operate simultaneously in both a traditional past and a post-modern present.

What his paper seeks to explore, then, are representations and performances of masculinity in Marina Carr’s “Midland’s Trilogy”; comprising of The Mai (1994), Portia Coughlan (1996) and By the Bog of Cats … (1998). Overall, in terms of performing masculinities, Carr’s theatrical grammar gives rise to three main points of examination: First, the notion of the idealised yet absent man, and his effect on both the other male characters in her plays, and the women who set their expectations of manhood in line with this idealised paradigm. Second, the overarching scope of gender role-reversal throughout her work, which in turn gives rise to her treatment of female masculinities and female patriarchs. And finally, her utilisation of paradoxical and contradictory theatre semiotics – which operate on many levels of performance; character, plot, time, actor, scenography and language – and which serve to subvert, distort, and ultimately critique patriarchy by situating the traditional (or even stereotypical) patriarch in a non-typical and troubling theatrical idiom.

When examined thus, Carr’s ‘Men of the Midlands’ foreground a national manhood at odds with itself, lagging sadly behind its European counterparts in terms of any radical or eglatarian social gender order.

Pavelková, Hana (Charles University, Prague): “Women to Women and Men to Men: Gender in Contemporary Irish Monologues”

Since the 1990s monologues have dominated the theatre stages not only in Ireland, but also in Europe and the United States. In Ireland, the critical analyses focus primarily on masculinity since the majority of the contemporary Irish monologues are written by male playwrights for male actors. The imbalance between the number of monologues written for men and for women is striking. Therefore in this paper I would like to provide the important analysis of monologues written by Irish women playwrights for women. Do they represent the women characters differently than their male counterparts? Is gender the only issue at stake? How innovative are these monologues in their treatment of the theatre medium? The examination of three black comedies, Geraldine Aaron’s My Beautiful Divorce, Abbie Spallen’s Pump Girl and Maureen McManus’ Maureen will hopefully provide an answer and will be a valuable contribution to this year’s conference.

Pilný, Ondřej (Charles University, Prague): “The Golovlyovs and the Celtic Tiger”

Tom Murphy’s The Last Days of a Reluctant Tyrant (2009) is among the numerous recent plays that have been interpreted by leading Irish critics as commentaries on the overwhelming materialism and absence of virtue attendant to the boom of the Irish economy. This paper proposes to examine the approach used by Tom Murphy in his adaptation of the bleakly ironic Russian novel, Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The Golovlyov Family (1880), focusing, in particular, on the extent to which Murphy’s choices may support the view of the play as directly addressing contemporary Ireland. The analysis should subsequently provide grounds for addressing more general issues such as the role of the socio-political context in interpretation, and the construction of a play’s ethics.

Sihra, Melissa (Trinity College, Dublin): “Theatre as Image: Visual Play in the Theatre of Marina Carr”

This paper will explore the visual resonances of Marina Carr’s theatre. Irish (and perhaps by implication, all) theatrical performance, is inherently visual, predicated as it is upon the act of looking. Radio drama, of course, transmits meaning aurally, however the word begets the image within our mind’s eye too through this medium. Irish theatre tends to be regarded, reductively perhaps, as a ‘literary tradition’ – one of eloquence, lyricism and loquacity. I will argue that the centrality of images and the influences of traditions of visual art in the Irish tradition are of equal importance to the work, as we can see from Yeats and Beckett to Murphy and beyond. I will argue that the impact and effect of the visual has been undervalued in the Irish tradition, which offers plays tenaciously steeped in a deeply wrought visual language and landscape. My paper will focus on the ways in which Marina Carr ‘writes visually’, consciously invoking traditions of European Art as well as evoking unique stage-imagery upon which to build her stories. Carr’s plays are interwoven with resonances of Michelangelo de Merisi, Johann Heinrich Fussli, Ferdinand Delacroix and Giorgio de Chirico as well as references to Caravaggio and Piero della Francesca. Both Carr’s conscious and oblique references to these diverse European artists offer narrative layers which, like her use of music, operate alongside the linguistic to weave the dramas.


Shearer, Julie Josephine (Trinity College, Dublin): “‘Others’ Amongst ‘Us’ – an emerging Traveller canon?”

In its rapid transformation over the last two decades from a legendarily mono-racial society to a newly multicultural one, the crosshatching of ‘race’ and ‘identity’ has become a hotly disputed issue. Ireland, however, has long had an internal, native ‘Other’ against whom normative notions of ‘Irishness’ have been explicated. Simultaneously both the epitome of ‘Irish’ and indisputably ‘Other’, Travellers have frequently been represented in Irish cultural products but, as a silenced and sensationalized minority, have rarely had the opportunity to represent themselves. Since Traveller politicisation began in the 1960s, Traveller activists and artists have begun to carve out for themselves an enunciative space in many arenas within the Irish public sphere, but the theatre remained materially closed to them. This paper concerns itself with the recent emergence of two playwrights, Rosaleen McDonagh and Michael Collins, and finds evidence of a nascent Traveller canon. Playing to diverse publics, both settled and Traveller, and carrying a multiplicity of messages, these plays speak to and about an Irish society they unequivocally demand a stake in, while also addressing important issues within their own culture. It is hoped that this paper might provoke discussion in a broader European cultural context of the relationship between sedentary and nomadic peoples, the construction of racialised difference and the notion of the ‘Native Other’ – the other within.


Sirató, Ildikó (Hungarian National Széchényi Library, Budapest): “Ireland (Éire) and Hungary on stage of national (language) theatre from 18th to 21st centuries”

The paper deals with comparative questions on theatrical institutions and their repertoires from the viewpoint of peripheral national cultures as Irish and Hungarian. The model of modern (18th century and beyond) European cultures gives us schemes to research contacts and connections not only in an areal (regional) context, but regarding similar connections to the central cultural phenomena too. This way we can find some interesting parallels and similarities between Irish and Hungarian national language theaters too, which could reflect on contemporary situations in European theatrical culture too (e. g. on the popularity of contemporary plays in small nations, cultural transfers on the stage or national identities in the European Union). The paper uses methods of comparative theatre research as well as contemporary theatre sociology and research of repertoires and focuses on theatre as a societal institution and forum of expressing national identity. We try to point out similarities and differences between Irish and Hungarian theatre-systems, identifying functions of theatre and performances with some historical and contemporary examples.

Szverle, Ilona (University of Pécs): “A Unique Succes in the Hungarian Theatre World: Péter Gothár’s Direction of The Cripple of Inishmaan

This paper takes as its focal point the staging of Martin McDonagh’s play, The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Radnóti Theatre, in Budapest, directed by the Golden Lion Award-winner film and stage director, Péter Gothár. This performance   has been on since 2001 and has been praised both by its critics and audiences. More than twenty productions of five of Martin McDonagh’s plays have been staged in Hungary since 1997, but none of them was so warmly welcomed by Hungarian theatregoers. After overviewing some features of McDonagh’s Hungarian reception, my paper focuses on introducing the director and exploring the several credits of his direction. On the one hand, my paper’s aim is to analyze the interpretation in which the elements of melodrama are raised to a poetic and sometimes surreal level and the multi-layeredness of the drama comes to light, posing questions about the difficulty of getting to know the truth. On the other hand, to explore the reasons for this long-running success.


Trench, Rhona (Institute of Technology, Sligo):A Blend of Irish and European Theatre and Practice: Blue Raincoat Theatre Company’s productions of W.B. Yeats At the Hawks Well (1916) and The Cat and the Moon (1926)”

The importance of European physical theatre practitioners to Blue Raincoat Theatre Company (BRTC), based in Sligo, and its evolving performance practices is observable particularly since the production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1999. The company’s mission statement, “to develop artistically as an ensemble company, serve audiences and the public through our programme and facilities and to provide for the development of theatre in Ireland” (BRTC’s submission document), also takes into consideration its geographical location on the northwest edge of Ireland (and Europe) and importantly, it explores what it means to be an ensemble. Additionally embedded in this, is the company’s performance processes which use devised, improvised and collaborative practices. Theoretically speaking, the paper follows a reading of BRTC’s process through Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus as defined in The Logic of Practice where like the individual’s sense of play, the performer is free as well as limited to engage in invention and improvisation within the demands of the performance. Using BRTC’s recent productions of W.B. Yeats’ At the Hawks Well and The Cat and the Moon, this paper demonstrates the range of visual and aural languages of performance such as physical agility, mask work, ensemble acting, ability in mime, the expressive possibilities of the human body, the use of scenography and the vocal/aural systems employed in the works. The process and realisation of the plays reveal the multilayered series of influences informed by BRTC’s formal training, the use of ensemble theatre and the demands of the Noh style dramas.

Wilmer, Steven (Trinity College, Dublin): “Irish Oresteias, Antigones and Medeas: Or, Women Get Their Own Back”

From the mid-1980s in Ireland, Greek tragedy was frequently deployed as a metaphor for the political situation, recalling the anti-colonial struggle between Ireland and England and the paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland. More recently, Irish productions have adopted a more domestic approach dispensing with the chorus and the poetry, transposing the tragedy from the polis to the oikos, and reducing Greek tragedy to normal household situations. This tendency has sometimes created an uncomfortable tension between the horrific events of the original and the domestication of the new productions. In this paper I want to reflect on recent productions of Greek tragedy in Ireland (such as Oedipus Loves You and Off Plan) that domesticate Greek tragedy, and use these as a context for examining the latest version of Medea, directed by Selina Cartmell, that took place in Dublin last September and that highlights some of the problems in trying to update the classics. I want to pose the question: how might the modern director or translator update Greek tragedy without trivializing it?