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Irish Protestant Playwrights Conference. Galway. Day One

June 2, 2016


I arrive, ever so ever so slightly late, in a sweat, and sit near the back while my skin slowly reverts to a less unpleasant shade of red.

Three papers on “early” Irish drama, on George Farquhar, Arthur Murphy, Elizabeth Griffith and Maria Edgeworth.  Three papers, four dramatists.  We’re reminded of Farquhar’s native Derry, of the politics of siege mentalities as well as the politics of impressment – the enlisting of the naive and impressionable to face withering musket fire on a foreign field.  I learned more about Brecht’s strange adaptation of Farquhar’s Recruiting Officer.  I need to know more.  And I learned still more about Arthur Murphy, remarkably polymath, whose outsider status enabled him cast a wider, more general view of eighteenth-century society than his more metropolitan contemporaries.  Murphy’s Irishness is constantly alluded to, constantly being used to define him, while it also is used by Murphy to define a particular version of “perspective”.  And then we learned, more optimistically about the more ecumenical dramatic speculation of the end of of the century, when women dramatists, often excluded then and now from large public stages, consider the nature of sectarian exclusions from a position of sympathy.

And then our plenary – Beckett,  “Descendency” and the Specters of Irish Modernism.  Beckett’s bizarrely still contested Irish experience considered the context of declining protestantism in a Free State along with the Irish protestant fascination with ghosts which links Beckett with Yeats with Swift.  The dramatic potential of spirits was explored. and later discussed, and their ability to reinforce preferred hopes and fears.  The famine ghosts are notably by their absence.

Thank you James Ward, Heather Ladd, David Clare and Sean Kennedy.

Fortified by drinks on what remained a very very warm evening we then repaired to the Bank of Ireland Theatre on campus for a performance of Lady’ Gregory’s Grania.  A love triangle with a twist and a golden dress, the poetic fixations of a heroic age are explored in all their hideous and hypnotic extremities.  It’s a play about love and the expectations generation by love – and about loyalty and the peculiar betrayals that a cult of loyalty entails.  Death does not provide closure.



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One Comment
  1. Conor McPherson has the ghost thing, but I think he got it from watching scary movies 🙂

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