The Gate Theatre, Dublin

Inspiration and Craft

by David Clare (Volume editor) Des Lally (Volume editor) Patrick Lonergan (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection X, 422 Pages


The Gate Theatre is one of Ireland’s major theatres. It has produced important new plays by such figures as Brian Friel, Conor McPherson, and Denis Johnston – while also premiering significant works by other writers, including unjustly neglected women dramatists such as Mary Manning, Christine Longford, and Maura Laverty. It has made huge contributions to the art of theatre in Ireland, not only in relation to acting (launching the careers of Orson Welles, James Mason, and Michael Gambon) but also in terms of direction and design. And it has made a major contribution to the world’s understanding of Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and others.
Despite these incredible achievements, the theatre has been the subject of very little critical attention to date. This book redresses this problem; it is, in fact, the very first scholarly essay collection devoted entirely to the theatre. It gathers together leading academics and critics who explore the Gate’s achievements in relation to the development of new Irish writing and new Irish theatre practices. The book is written with scholarly rigour but also in accessible language and would therefore be of interest to anyone with a passion for Irish theatre.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction (David Clare / Des Lally / Patrick Lonergan)
  • 1 Experiment and The Free State: Mrs Cogley’s Cabaret and the Founding of the Gate Theatre 1924–1930 (Elaine Sisson)
  • Introduction
  • The Cabaret and Modernity
  • Toto Cogley: Radical and Impresaria
  • Toto’s Cabaret and The Radical Club
  • Life After the Radical Club
  • Toto Cogley and the Gate
  • 2 Hilton Edwards as Director: Shade of Modernity (Ian R. Walsh)
  • Theatrical Background
  • The Director as Product of Modernity
  • Directorial Process
  • Key Devices and Techniques
  • Permanent Multi-functioning Sets
  • Silhouettes and the ‘Ich’ Performance
  • Legacy
  • 3 ‘Ancient Ireland comes to Rathmines’: Memory, Identity, and Diversity in Micheál macLíammóir’s Where Stars Walk (1940) (Ruud van den Beuken)
  • ‘It’s the new Ireland that’s given me the willies’: The Temporal and Social Stratification of Irish Identities
  • ‘’Twas like looking in a mirror and seeing everything a touch crooked’: The Multiplicity of Cultural Memories
  • ‘Another Ireland, in fact’: Conclusion
  • 4 Micheál macLíammóir: The Erotic-Exotic and the Dublin Gate Theatre (Richard Pine)
  • Introduction
  • Alfred Willmore and Micheál macLíammóir
  • Stagecraft
  • Twilight
  • Homage to Yeats
  • Homosexuality
  • The Gate Theatre repertoire
  • ‘Motley’
  • ‘Problem Plays’
  • The Gate’s associates
  • Conclusion
  • 5 Desperationists and Ineffectuals: Mary Manning’s Gate Plays of the 1930s (José Lanters)
  • 6 Denis Johnston at the Gate: a Groundbreaking yet Neglected Writer (Virginie Girel-Pietka)
  • Challenging icons
  • A decisive collaboration
  • Theatre as a work-in-progress
  • Conclusion
  • 7 Magic Windows: Ria Mooney at the Gate Theatre (Ciara O’Dowd)
  • The Civic Repertory Theatre Company
  • The Abbey Theatre Company: Acting Style at the Irish National Theatre
  • The Gate Theatre
  • Conclusion
  • 8 Lord Longford’s Yahoo: An Alternative National Myth from an Alternative National Theatre (Feargal Whelan)
  • Jonathan Swift
  • Yahoo
  • Conclusion
  • 9 Class, Land, and Irishness: Winners and Losers: Christine Longford (1900–1980) (Cathy Leeney)
  • Mr. Jiggins of Jigginstown (1933)
  • Tankardstown, or A Lot to Be Thankful For (1948)
  • The Hill of Quirke (1953)
  • Conclusion
  • 10 Longford Productions, Bernard Shaw, and the Irish Big House (Audrey McNamara)
  • The Longford Stagings of Heartbreak House and Their Interest in Big House Works
  • Heartbreak House as an Irish Big House Play
  • Conclusion
  • 11 The Fictionalisation of Hilton Edwards and Micheál macLíammóir in the Novel Stravaganza! (1963), by Paul Smith (Des Lally)
  • 12 Brian Friel at the Gate: Lovers in Dublin and New York (Anthony Roche)
  • 13 ‘Our only thorough playwright’: Oscar Wilde and the Gate Theatre (Noreen Doody)
  • 14 Goldsmith, the Gate, and the ‘Hibernicising’ of Anglo-Irish Plays (David Clare)
  • The Irish References in She Stoops to Conquer
  • The Gate’s ‘Hibernicised’ Production of She Stoops to Conquer (1995)
  • The Irish References in The Good-Natured Man
  • The Gate’s ‘Hibernicised’ Production of The Good-Natured Man (1974)
  • Conclusion
  • 15 Staging American Drama at the Gate Theatre, 1928–2016 (Christopher Murray)
  • Early days
  • The Colgan era
  • The Plays in Production
  • 16 ‘Staging an encounter’: Brian Friel’s Faith Healer, Bracha Ettinger, and the Art-Encounter-Event (Graham Price)
  • The Gate Theatre and the Fragilizing of Frank
  • Mapping The Matrixial Borderspace
  • Fragilizing the Artist
  • The Tragedy of Grace Hardy and the Denial of the Maternal
  • Staging the Matrixial Gaze
  • Ethical Relationality
  • Conclusion
  • 17 ‘Be again, be again’: The Gate’s Beckett Country (Trish McTighe)
  • Mapping the Beckett Country
  • The Gate’s Beckett Country
  • Travel and Tourism in the Beckett Country
  • 18 The Gate, Endgame, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Aoife Lynch)
  • 19 Harold Pinter at the Gate Theatre: ‘A Kind of Homecoming’ (Emma Creedon)
  • Appendix A: Gate Theatre Chronology (1928–1982): The Edwards-macLíammóir and Longford Directorates (Des Lally / David Clare / Ruud van den Beuken)
  • A selection of important productions, events, and developments from the Gate’s early history…
  • 1928
  • Productions at the Peacock Theatre
  • 1929
  • Productions at the Peacock Theatre
  • Production at the Mansion House
  • 1930
  • 1931
  • 1932
  • 1933
  • 1934
  • 1935
  • 1936
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1937
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1938
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1939
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1940
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1941
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1942
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1943
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1944
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1945
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1946
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1947
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1948
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1949
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1950
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1951
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1952
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1953
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1954
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1955
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1956
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1957
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1958
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1959
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1960
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions
  • Longford Productions
  • 1961
  • Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions, Except Where Noted (This Year and All Subsequent Years)
  • 1962
  • 1963
  • 1964
  • 1965
  • 1966
  • 1967
  • 1968
  • 1969
  • 1971
  • 1972
  • 1973
  • 1974
  • 1975
  • 1976
  • 1977
  • 1978
  • 1979
  • 1980
  • 1981
  • 1982
  • Appendix B: Gate Theatre Chronology (1983–2017): The Michael Colgan Directorate and the Appointment of Selina Cartmell (David Clare)
  • A selection of important productions, events, and developments from the Gate’s recent history…
  • 1983
  • 1984
  • 1985
  • 1986
  • 1987
  • 1988
  • 1989
  • 1990
  • 1991
  • 1992
  • 1993
  • 1994
  • 1995
  • 1996
  • 1997
  • 1998
  • 1999
  • 2000
  • 2001
  • 2002
  • 2003
  • 2004
  • 2005
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2013
  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

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Dublin’s Gate Theatre looms large in the Irish theatre sector, surpassed only by Ireland’s national theatre, the Abbey, in terms of the press coverage it receives, its annual funding, and the number of productions it stages each year. It also has a very high profile outside Ireland: since 2000, it has staged work at the Edinburgh International Festival, New York’s Lincoln Center, and the Barbican in London, among other prestigious venues. It is strongly associated with two Nobel Prize winners for Literature, Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett – and has played an influential role in the careers of such actors as Orson Welles, James Mason, and Michael Gambon, amongst others. And while it is now associated mainly with the production of classic dramas, it has made a significant contribution to the development of new Irish writing, premiering such plays as Denis Johnston’s The Old Lady Says ‘No!’ (1929) and Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1964), each of them epoch-defining in its own way.

Yet despite these (and many other) achievements, the Gate has been the subject of relatively little scholarly or critical attention. Richard Pine and Richard Allen Cave published a book called The Dublin Gate Theatre 1928–1978 in 1984, providing an overview of its historical development; also important is Pine’s heavily-detailed catalogue to the exhibition celebrating the theatre’s Golden Jubilee, entitled All For Hecuba (1978). Otherwise, the most important publications have been mainly biographical or commemorative. Christopher Fitz-Simon’s double biography of Hilton Edwards and Micheal macLíammóir, published in 1994, has justly been celebrated as an outstanding study of the theatre’s co-founders.1 Two other ← 1 | 2 → important biographies of macLíammóir alone include Micheál Ó hAodha’s The Importance of Being Micheál: A Portrait of MacLiammóir (1990) and Tom Madden’s The Making of an Artist: Creating the Irishman Micheál MacLiammóir (2015). Bulmer Hobson’s The Gate Theatre Dublin (1934) and Peter Luke’s Enter Certain Players (1978) provide valuable compendia of recollections by figures associated with the theatre, while John Cowell’s No Profit but the Name (1988) gives much-needed attention to the contribution of Lord Longford and his wife Christine to the Gate’s history.

While we can point to a number of important and rigorously researched essays or book chapters about the Gate by leading scholars such as Joan FitzPatrick Dean, Anthony Roche, Éibhear Walsh, and Anna McMullan, it remains somewhat surprising that to date there has been no book-length academic monograph about the theatre’s history and impact. Particularly since the 1980s, the Gate has received little sustained attention; when it features in more general histories it tends to be mentioned only in passing. Many of the plays it premiered are under-examined; most are out of print or were never published in the first place. And there has been little consideration of its impact upon the development of Irish theatre practice, especially in the areas of directing, design, and acting. This contrasts with the Abbey, a theatre that has been the subject of at least a dozen full-length monographs. But it also contrasts with groups such as Field Day, a company founded in 1980 that staged eleven original plays before being quietly wound down less than 20 years later – and which has since been the subject of at least three full-length academic books. This compares with the status afforded the Gate, which has lasted 90 years and staged more than 120 new plays and adaptations.

The reasons for that relative neglect might partially be explained by scholarly methodology. The dominance of postcolonialism in Irish theatre ← 2 | 3 → studies from the mid-1980s, coupled with a preference amongst academics for using published playscripts rather than attendance at performances, meant that the kind of work being staged by the Gate was always likely to struggle to gain attention. The publication of Chris Morash’s A History of Irish Theatre, 1601–2000 in 2002 signalled a turn towards the use of archival material, which was used to reconstruct the experiences of Irish audiences across time – an approach that has resulted in the retrieval of many important dramatists and companies, and which has also allowed scholars to dedicate more attention to theatre practice. But here again the Gate is as at a disadvantage. The papers of the Edwards-macLíammóir era are held in Northwestern University in Illinois, and although they are carefully preserved by dedicated and exceptionally helpful archivists (to whom we as editors of this book have repeatedly had occasion to be grateful), the archive is simply too far away to allow most Ireland-based scholars or PhD students to carry out the kind of extensive work that is needed. The papers of the Longfords, if not lost, are presumed to remain in private hands, while those of the Colgan era have been preserved in digital format at NUI Galway since 2017, but as of this writing have not been available for long enough to have had a significant impact on scholarship (though they have been used by many of the contributors to this book).

But perhaps another reason for its neglect is that the Gate has often been misunderstood. Most histories tell a similar story about the theatre. Founded in 1928 by Edwards and macLíammóir, the Gate was widely seen as the successor to the Dublin Drama League, a group established to bring the best of contemporary European and American theatre to Irish audiences. Its earliest years were marked by several highs – notably, the move in 1930 to the Rotunda building that it still occupies. But there were lows too, such as the split with the theatre’s patron Lord Longford, which led in 1936 to the building being shared by two companies (Edwards-macLíammóir Dublin Gate Theatre Productions and Longford Productions), each of them occupying the space for six months at a time. While it struggled to survive during the Second World War period and into the 1950s, the Gate entered a period of renewed vigour in the 1960s, signalled not just by Hilton Edwards’s direction of several new plays by Brian Friel but also by the international impact of macLíammóir’s The Importance of Being Oscar (1960), ← 3 | 4 → based on the life and work of his hero Oscar Wilde. Following the death of macLíammóir in 1978 and Edwards in 1982, the Gate was taken over by Michael Colgan, who revitalised it by staging major festivals dedicated to such writers as Beckett, Pinter, Friel, and Mamet. Colgan stepped down in 2017, being succeeded by the director Selina Cartmell, whose first season was getting underway as this book went into production.2

The desire to publish this volume arises from a conviction that there is much more to this story than has been told to date – and also from a belief that several elements of the received wisdom associated with the theatre are either wholly inaccurate or only partially true. Accordingly, the editors, working with the Gate, decided in 2015 to host a conference on the history of the theatre under the auspices of the Irish Theatrical Diaspora project. Many of the papers included here were first delivered at the conference.

As we discussed the Gate’s history at that event, we quickly became aware that by far the most frequent misunderstanding about the theatre is ← 4 | 5 → its relationship to the Abbey. During the mid-century, one of the regular jokes in Dublin was that the pair should be seen as ‘Sodom and Begorrah’, the latter term referencing the Abbey’s penchant under Ernest Blythe for dramas focussed on the Irish peasantry, and the former being an allusion to the sexuality of Edwards and macLíammóir, while also acting as a statement of the theatre’s reputation for work that was seen as European, decadent, and sensuous (three words that in the mid-century period were perceived as broadly interchangeable by some sections of Irish society). But the Gate too had ambitions to be seen as a national theatre, as a major contributor to the development not only of a national dramatic literature but also to the emerging nation’s sense of itself. Ruud van den Beuken provides a case study of the Gate’s ‘national’ work in Micheál macLíammóir’s Where Stars Walk (1940), one of many examples of how that figure was inspired by Yeats’s approach to theatre-making. The Longfords too were committed to the idea of what Feargal Whelan calls an ‘alternative national theatre’ in his essay on their work. He explores how they put that into practice by considering Lord Longford’s play Yahoo (1933) – a drama that engages with Swift as a proto-national(ist) writer in a manner that bears comparison with Yeats’s own appropriation of Swift in his late poetry. Similarly, Audrey McNamara shows how the Longford Productions stagings of Bernard Shaw’s plays were part of their wider mission to shine a light on the nation’s Church of Ireland population – a group that was often (deliberately) ignored in mainstream discourse in the decades after independence.

The Gate has also been instrumental in the development of new Irish writing, much of it by figures who have since been unjustly neglected. These include Denis Johnston – who is often praised for having written The Old Lady Says ‘No!’ but who has not been given much attention beyond that; here, Virginie Girel-Pietka gives several examples of how his work at the Gate can be situated in broader national and social contexts. Other figures have received still less attention. José Lanters dedicates extensive analysis to Mary Manning, a major contributor to the success of the Gate in the 1930s – not only through her excellent Youth’s the Season …? (1931) but also through her work as editor of Motley, the Gate’s in-house magazine. Similarly, Cathy Leeney explores several plays by Christine Longford – demonstrating not only the importance of both of the Longfords to the ← 5 | 6 → history of the Gate but underscoring Christine’s significance as a dramatist in her own right. Our hope is that future studies of the Gate will give attention not only to Manning and Christine Longford but to the other important female dramatists championed by the theatre such as Maura Laverty and Hazel Ellis, among others.

We have also sought to retrieve some of the stories of other contributors to the development of the theatre – and, again, those who have been most neglected are often women. Chief among these must be Madame Desirée Bannard Cogley who, as Elaine Sisson reminds us, was one of the four founding directors of the theatre – and who was deeply involved in its development aesthetically, politically, and socially. Likewise, Ciara O’Dowd gives a detailed account of the importance of the Gate to the artistic development of Ria Mooney, an actor and director mainly associated with the Abbey who acted at the Gate and co-wrote an adaptation of Wuthering Heights for it.

Inevitably, any study of the Gate must grapple with Edwards and macLíammóir. It is of course essential to see them as practitioners who between them excelled across a range of areas including acting, design, direction, and playwriting (and both wrote excellent books about theatre as well). But it is also necessary to grapple with their iconic status, with the fact that in some ways they have become more famous for being who they were than for what they did. Des Lally shows how the reputation of the two men had developed into caricature as early as the 1950s, analysing their thinly veiled (and not altogether kind) portrait in Paul Smith’s 1963 novel Stravaganza! – while Richard Pine shows how macLíammóir’s public persona informed the development of his writing and acting. Yet it is important too to be reminded of how each contributed to the development of Irish practice – something shown in some detail by Ian R. Walsh’s exploration of Edwards’s work as director.

Another misconception about the Gate, especially during the era of Michael Colgan, is that its prioritisation of revivals over new work should be seen as evidence of a failure to innovate. While that view tends to overlook the theatre’s support for new writing (including under Colgan, who produced 44 new plays and adaptations during his tenure), it also implies the existence of a preconception within the Irish theatre that the only form ← 6 | 7 → of innovation that matters is the discovery of new writers and the staging of new plays. But across all of its artistic directorates the Gate’s primary contribution to the development of Irish theatre has been its contribution to directing, design, acting, and the practice of producing plays – as well as to playwriting. For that reason we have sought to include essays that consider how the Gate’s productions of plays by familiar writers have often involved innovative practice. This is a task that in many other countries would be considered one of the primary responsibilities of a national theatre, and although this study is not the place to determine why the Gate has sometimes been criticised in Ireland for doing what is praised in other countries, we have chosen to include essays that might invite a reconsideration of what is most valued and valuable within the Irish theatre more generally.

A handful of these high-profile writers bridge all eras of the Gate’s history. One such bridging figure is Oscar Wilde who, as Noreen Doody shows, helped to gain the theatre an immediate reputation for bravery (and notoriety) when it staged the English-language premiere of Salomé in 1928. Yet even within the Colgan era, Wilde could still be used to shock and provoke audiences – as for example when Patrick Mason’s 1987 staging of The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) intervened directly into Irish debates about sexuality, at a time when male homosexual acts remained illegal in that country.

We also see the importance of the Gate to Brian Friel, who – as Anthony Roche shows in his exploration of the production of Lovers (1967) – was supported by the Gate at the crucial early period of his career. But the Gate also played a very important role in the final years of Friel’s life: from 1994 onwards, almost all of Friel’s new plays and adaptations would appear at the theatre, and it would also do much to force a reappraisal of earlier works, as Graham Price considers in his discussion of the Gate’s 2009–2010 production of Faith Healer (1979).

Another dominant characteristic of the Colgan era is an emphasis on what has come to be known as festivalisation, which is the clustering together of a series of productions that are unified by theme, authorship, or national origins. So successful were the Gate’s many Beckett festivals from 1991 onwards that they dominated the production and reception of Beckett in English internationally well into the 2000s – something that ← 7 | 8 → Trish McTighe analyses in her essay about how the Gate expertly worked to associate Beckett with the Irish landscape. Taking a different approach, Aoife Lynch discusses the Gate’s reputation for (what some consider excessive) fidelity to Beckett’s exacting instructions regarding the stagings of his plays. By examining Beckett’s authorial intentions in Endgame (1957), she shows that such fidelity by the Gate is actually a dramaturgically sound choice. She also quotes from many Gate actors who have found plenty of scope for experiment and even artistic freedom within the strict confines of Beckett’s stage world. The other major festivals of the Colgan era involved the work of Pinter, of course, and Emma Creedon’s essay on that writer answers the question of how so significant an English dramatist came to be championed by an Irish theatre.

But festivalisation can simply be considered as a formalisation of what had previously been seen as trends or tendencies. Two such trends are identified in essays by David Clare and Christopher Murray who respectively consider the Gate’s staging of Anglo-Irish playwrights and American drama. In both cases, we discover how meticulous programming can encourage audiences to develop a willingness to open their minds to ostensibly obscure or neglected works, whether they are plays by eighteenth-century Irish dramatists or a rarely-performed Tennessee Williams work. There are lessons to be learned from such practices about how audiences can be built for work that might at first seem to be commercially unviable.

As the Gate celebrates its ninetieth anniversary, our objective has been not to complete the story of the theatre but rather to renew the process of telling it – re-considering what we think we know, but also looking again at people and productions that have been ignored or dismissed or overlooked. As a starting point for such work we have included outline chronologies that might fill in some of the blanks and which we hope might inspire further questions and research.

An important debate that emerged in some of the papers collected here is whether the Gate should be seen as a second national theatre for Ireland. While we acknowledge that the ‘national’ designation can sometimes be more inhibiting than enabling, we share our authors’ sense that the Gate is important to our understanding of theatre in Ireland, especially in its social and cultural contexts, and that the Gate has national significance as ← 8 | 9 → a cultural institution – including outside of Dublin through the extensive provincial touring undertaken by Longford Productions and (at various points) by Edwards-macLíammóir and even Colgan. We also consider that its impact beyond Ireland merits both praise and attention: from its tours of Egypt and the Balkans in the 1930s to its global tours of Beckett in the early 2000s, it has performed versions of Ireland to international audiences, but has also had a disproportionately high influence on the development of acting and directing. When faced with the relative lack of scholarly appreciation of the Gate to date, we might be tempted be to conclude that the theatre simply is undeserving of such attention. Our contention, however, is that, on the contrary, the absence of sustained critical investigation of this institution reveals some of the blindspots and lacunae in Irish theatre scholarship. To open oneself to the history of the Gate allows for the development of a fuller appreciation of the strength and depth of Irish theatre practice over a century – in directing, acting, design, producing, and playwriting, among other areas. It also demonstrates that Irish and international theatre are not mutually exclusive categories but that they feed from and enrich each other. And finally it shows that the Gate can be seen as a microcosm for the development of independent Ireland, operating as a laboratory in which could be explored such issues as gender, Europeanisation, and the rise of the Irish middle class. This is not to suggest that everything it did was a success; nor is it to invalidate all of the criticisms that have been levelled against it over the years. But it is to assert that a history of the Gate has much to tell us, and that it deserves to be understood.

Galway and Limerick, April 2017.

1 The published work on Edwards and macLíammóir shows that there have been multiple versions of the spelling of the latter’s surname, including in documents produced by the theatre itself. In seeking to determine how to impose consistency of presentation, we have decided to follow the advice of Michael Travers of the Edwards/macLíammóir estate, who suggests that the version most preferred by the man himself was macLíammóir. While noting that this version rarely appears in published work about him, and noting too that speakers of the Irish language might consider such a presentation incorrect, we consider it most appropriate to follow this suggestion.

2 As this book was being finalised, Selina Cartmell’s first season was underway with a well-received production of The Great Gatsby, which was followed by the Irish premiere of Nina Raine’s 2010 play Tribes and then a new adaptation of The Red Shoes by Nancy Harris. Some months into that season, a controversy about the conduct and legacy of Michael Colgan, focusing on his treatment of female staff at the Gate, received attention first on social media and then in the mainstream press. This in turn led to a newspaper response from Colgan and an independent report being conducted by the theatre. These events are discussed in the following press reports: ‘Seven women allege abuse and harassment by Michael Colgan’, The Irish Times, 4 November 2017; ‘Michael Colgan: I failed to see – and should have respected – the difference between friends and colleagues’, The Irish Independent, 12 November 2017; ‘Michael Colgan has “case to answer” over behavior at Gate’, The Irish Times, 9 February 2018.

While as editors we do not wish to ignore the significance of these events for an understanding of the history of the Gate, we have been unable to include any discussion of them in this book. Nor do we wish to ignore the contribution that Cartmell has already made to the success of the Gate, where she has shown a strong awareness of the theatre’s past achievements as well as a determination to make her own mark. However, as this book is a work of theatre historiography, and as its content had been substantially completed by the spring of 2017, our focus is necessarily restricted to the past rather than events that were still unfolding as we went into production.


X, 422
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
The Gate Theatre Irish Theatre and Drama Twentieth-Century Theatre and Drama
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018., 431 pp., 13 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

David Clare (Volume editor) Des Lally (Volume editor) Patrick Lonergan (Volume editor)

David Clare is Assistant Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, and he previously held two IRC-funded postdoctoral fellowships at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway). He is the author of Bernard Shaw’s Irish Outlook (2016) and numerous essays on Irish and Irish Diasporic writers. Des Lally is a PhD candidate at NUI Galway. His research subject is «The Role of the Gate Theatre in Irish Modernism 1928-1945». He is Assistant Director of the Vassar College USA/Ireland Program and the Programme Coordinator of the Clifden Arts Festival. He co-edited (with Peter Fallon and John Fanning) Captivating Brightness: Ballynahinch, a literary celebration of Connemara’s iconic Ballynahinch Castle. Patrick Lonergan is Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway and a member of the Royal Irish Academy. He has edited or written eleven books on Irish theatre, including Theatre and Globalization (winner of the 2008 Theatre Book Prize), The Theatre and Films of Martin McDonagh (2012), Theatre and Social Media (2015) and Irish Drama and Theatre Since 1950 (2019). He is a director of the Galway International Arts Festival, and, for Methuen Drama, he is co-editor of the «Critical Companions» series.


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