Theatre and Archival Memory. Irish Drama and Marginalised Histories 1951-1977

Barry Houlihan
Palgrave McMillan, 2021

Theatre and Archival Memory: Irish Drama and Marginalised Histories 1951-1977. Drawing on the theatre collections of the Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, and library collections across the U.K. and U.S., the book recovers a social and cultural history of modernising Ireland, told through the political stages of Ireland’s theatres.

This book presents new insights into the production and reception of Irish drama, its internationalisation and political influences, within a pivotal period of Irish cultural and social change. From the 1950s onwards, Irish theatre engaged audiences within new theatrical forms at venues from the Pike Theatre, the Project Arts Centre, and the Gate Theatre, as well as at Ireland’s national theatre, the Abbey. 

Drawing on newly released and digitised archival records, this book argues for an inclusive historiography reflective of the formative impacts upon modern Irish theatre as recorded within marginalised performance histories. This study examines these works’ experimental dramaturgical impacts in terms of production, reception, and archival legacies. The book, framed by the device of ‘archival memory’, serves as a means for scholars and theatre-makers to inter-contextualise existing historiography and to challenge canon formation. It also presents a new social history of Irish theatre told from the fringes of history and reanimated through archival memory.

Available at

Read the essay about the book in The Irish Times

Dr. Barry Houlihan is an Archivist at National University of Ireland, Galway. He teaches theatre history and archival studies, digital cultures, and history. Barry is the editor of Navigating Ireland’s Theatre Archive: Theory, Practice, Performance (2019) and contributes regularly to RTÉ Brainstorm on topics of theatre, literature and cultural and archival heritage.