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Irish Protestant Playwright Conference. Galway. Day 3.

June 4, 2016


I missed the very end of this.  The very end was probably brilliant.  I left because I had to catch a bus, and if I hate walking out in the middle of a fine plenary.  Things were over-running a bit.  Nobody was to blame.

After a slightly smaller breakfast than yesterday, I sprinted off to hear about Lord Dunsany and the wisdom of bog watchers, disability and sacrifice in the plays of O’Casey and an unusual play called La La Noo by Jack. B Yeats, the great painter and more occasional dramatist who had difficulty getting his plays staged in Dublin while his more famous brother was still alive.  Extreme engagement and extreme disengagement with politics were both discussed.  The false rhetoric of quick and clean blood sacrifice was debated and of course, all the good bits from The Silver Tassie were recalled.

Thank you Des Lally, Ian Walsh and Siobhán Purcell.

After coffee we learned about early Gate playwrights and dramaturgs.  We recalled the early patriotic yet cosmopolitan agenda of the Gate theatre of Edwards and Mac Liammóir, within a context of prevalent Free State pageantry.  Then we heard about Ria Mooney and Mary Manning, the work of busy understudies who weren’t too busy to get up close and personal with Samuel Beckett and end up being compiled as one of his Fair to Middling Women.  Returning somewhat to Protestantism and (ma)lingering Ascendency (or Descendency we discovered a play by Christine Longford (yes – one of the Longford Packenhams) called Mr Jiggins of Jigginstown (1933) about the series of bad choices attending the problem of how to leave anyone any money in 1930s Ireland.

Thank you Feargal Whelan, Ciara Conway and Ruud Van Beuken.

Time was running out for me.  After lunch a big round table – which ended up becoming the entire circumference of the room, involved a discussion of Samuel Beckett and the “state” of Ireland (revisited).  Here Beckett’s twenty-first century as well as twentieth century relevance was considered – in particular regarding the ongoing struggle for reproductive rights in Ireland, and whether (Beckett’s misogyny definitely definitely notwithstanding) there is liberating anti-heteronormative potential in his critique of coercive cultures of fertility?

Thank you Alan Graham, Scott Eric Hamilton, Siobhán Purcell and Seán Kennedy.  Thank you everybody.

And finally, as my bag was packed and waiting at the back door so that I wouldn’t injure people with it as I elbowed my way out to run and catch my bus, we were treated to discussions of the implications of Beckett’s 1975 revisions to Waiting for Godot.  We wallowed in nostalgic appreciation for the punk soundtracks to Stewart Parker plays.  We thought about monologues and proofs of identity in the work of Jennifer Johnston (who is still with us by the way).  And we uncovered an extraordinary play about sectarian consciousness called The Last Eleven from the pivotal year of 1968.

I had no time to even dwell on these treasures – no time to interrogate or compare them.

Thank you Thomas Conway, thank you Barry Houlihan, thank you Megan Minogue and thank you Mária Kurdi.

But thank you on my way out because I’m running at this point.  And while I’m running I’m thinking about the brilliant paper by Emilie Pine that I’m missing.



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