Playboys of the Western World

Production Histories

by Adrian Frazier (Author)
©2004 Edited Collection XIV, 182 Pages
Series: Carysfort Press Ltd., Volume 234


'Playboys of the Western World is a model of contemporary performance studies.'
'The book is remarkably well-focused: half is a series of production histories of Playboy performances through the twentieth century in the UK, Northern Ireland, the USA, and Ireland. The remainder focuses on one contemporary performance, that of Druid Theatre, as directed by Garry Hynes. The various contemporary social issues that are addressed in relation to Synge's play and this performance of it give the volume an additional interest: it shows how the arts matter.'

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction
  • 1 | The First Playboy
  • 2 | Belfast Said ‘No’ to The Playboy
  • 3 | The Playboy IN the Western World:J. M. Synge’s Play in America
  • 4 | ‘Quaint Pastoral Numbskulls’: Siobhán McKenna’s Playboy Film
  • 5 | Two London Playboys: Before and After Druid
  • 6 | Roundtable Discussion with Garry Hynes
  • 1 | Terrible Truths, of our own making
  • 2 | Postmodern Paddywhackery
  • 3 | Redesigning The Playboy
  • 4 | Poetry, Romance, Clay, Worms
  • 5 | Gallous Stories and Dirty Deeds
  • 6 | Notes from the Borderland
  • 7 | The Playboy of the Western World as Cultural Event
  • 8 | Separate Spheres and Celebrity Casting
  • Index
  • Contributors


This book arose out of an offer in December 2003 by Garry Hynes, Artistic Director of Druid, to make the theatre available for a conference on The Playboy of the Western World during the run of her production of that play. It was to be organized by the MA in Drama and Theatre Studies at Hynes’s alma mater, the National University of Ireland, Galway. John Marshall, Dean of the Arts Faculty at the university, liked the idea and helped to fund it.

Rather than a conference on J. M. Synge and his works, textual analysis of the play, or the significance of its first performance to the Irish Literary Revival, it was decided to focus on the long production history of this Irish classic. Leading experts on Synge and Irish theatre when invited to address specific productions of The Playboy worked away with relish, and thanks are due to all those named in the table of contents. Lelia Doolan and Jennifer Johnston came along for the sport, but they did a lot more than that. It would be hard to find someone who is an Abbey actress, Abbey artistic director, expert broadcaster, and university teacher in broadcast journalism to moderate the roundtable discussion, but Lelia Doolan is all that, and Jennifer Johnston’s wise and humorous participation in the discussion was an unexpected treat.

One contributor to the conference was unable to contribute to the book. Illness in the family did not keep Joe O’Donoghue from giving his talk on the day, a fascinating account from a celebrated director in the West of Ireland of why amateur companies in the area shy away from The Playboy of the Western World. However, an illness after the conference put Joe Donoghue briefly in hospital, so he was unable to participate in writing the book. That is a pity, because no one else knows what he knows, or could speak of it half so well.

The managing director of Druid, Fergal McGrath, did a large share of the work amiably and efficiently: organizing all the business of the conference itself, getting the proceedings taped and photographed, supplying illustrations for the text, and answering specific queries about the production itself. Thanks are also due to Francis O’Connor, set designer of the Druid 2004 Playboy, for answering questions from writers of this book.

An important feature of the book is its illustrative matter, mostly photographs of earlier productions of the play. Thanks are due to the photographers themselves (where known, individually credited with the illustrations): Catherine Ashmore, John Haynes, Paul McCarthy, and Keith Pattison. The book owes a lot to the work of Christopher Fitz-Simon, a director himself and author of two illustrated books on the Irish Theatre. Several images were scanned from The Irish Theatre (1983). There are splendid photographs, by the way, in Fitz-Simon’s The Abbey Theatre: Ireland's National Theatre: The First 100 Years, currently for sale and available in most good bookshops.

There is practically no book that touches on the Irish Literary Revival that is not obliged to thank Colin Smythe, either for publishing the book, authorizing the use of material by George Moore, Lady Gregory, or AE, or allowing the reproduction of photographs in his collection. We must thank him for images of Maire O’Neill as Pegeen Mike.

Dan Farrelly, editor of Carysfort Press, showed interest in the project early on, and came to Galway for the conference itself. With Dan as a collaborator, the book was actually conceived prior to the conference, which itself was, as a result, a stage in the composition of the text. He worked with remarkable professionalism to bring the book together and with still more remarkable speed to bring it out. His contribution as publisher to shedding light on Irish theatre today has been a great stimulant to both scholars and practitioners alike.

Support from John Marshall, Dean, and the Arts Faculty, NUIG, made the original conference possible, and the Grant-in-Aid of Publications Fund, National University of Ireland, Galway, graciously contributed to making this book possible.

Adrian Frazier

List of Illustrations

p.7Michael Murphy as Christy Mahon; Peacock Theatre 2001 (from cover of the irish review, autumn 2002). Photograph: Paul McCarthy

p.13Original Abbey Theatre. From Lennox Robinson, Ireland’s Abbey Theatre. Courtesy of the Abbey Theatre

p.14Interior of Old Abbey Theatre, during rehearsal From Christopher Fitz-Simon, The Irish Theatre. Courtesy of the Abbey Theatre. Photograph: G.A. Duncan

p.15Maire O’Neill (Molly Allgood): The First Pegeen Colin Smythe Collection

p.24Maire O’Neill (Molly Allgood) as Pegeen Mike. Colin Smythe Collection

p.51Sara Allgood as Pegeen, Barry Fitzgerald as Michael James, and Arthur Shields as Christy Mahon, in a revival of The Playboy from the 1920s. From Christopher Fitz-Simon, The Irish Theatre. Courtesy of National Library of Ireland

p.62Siobhán McKenna as the Virgin Mary in ‘The King of Kings’

p.62Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus in ‘The King of Kings’

p.63Siobhán McKenna as St. Joan, Life Magazine, 10 September 1956

p.64Siobhán McKenna as Pegeen Mike, Film: Playboy of the Western World (1962)

p.68The step-dancing after the sports on the strand, Film: Playboy of the Western World (1962)

p.70Pegeen and Christy: The love scene on the beach, Film: Playboy of the Western World (1962)

p.79Stephen Rea as Christy, chaired round the set in the 1975 National Theatre production directed by Bill Bryden. Photograph: John Haynes

p.81Marie Mullen as the Widow Quin, King Edward VII's face on Gold Flake advertisement in background; Playboy of the Western World, Druid Theatre, 1982. Courtesy of Druid Theatre Company

p.83Derbhle Crotty as Pegeen Mike, 2001.

p.97Niall Buggy as Christy, Siobhán McKenna as the Widow Quin, from a 1976 production. Photograph from Christopher Fitz-Simon, The Irish Theatre

p.98‘The Rope Scene’ in Act Three. Cillian Murphy holding on to the table; Gary Raymond as Shawn Keogh at the head of the rope. Courtesy of Druid Theatre Company. Photograph: Keith Pattison

p.99Cillian Murphy as Christy about to go out the door at the play’s end. Courtesy of Druid Theatre Company. Photograph: Keith Pattison

p.118Aisling O’Sullivan as the Widow Quin; Cillian Murphy as Christy Mahon; Act Two. Courtesy of Druid Theatre Company. Photograph: Keith Pattison

p.121Anne-Marie Duff as Pegeen, Cillian Murphy as Christy, in love scene from Act Three. Photograph: Keith Pattison


XIV, 182
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (June)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2004. XIV, 182 pp., 22 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Adrian Frazier (Author)


Title: Playboys of the Western World
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
198 pages