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Frank McGuinness’s Dramaturgy of Difference and the Irish Theatre

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David Cregan

This book is the broad application of queer theories to the original plays of the contemporary Irish dramatist Frank McGuinness, the only author in Ireland to consistently utilize gay and lesbian themes in his writing. McGuinness continually represents sexual difference in his character development in a way that previous Irish authors have not. In particular McGuinness portrays homosexual protagonists in his dramas, allowing the queer the narrative prerogative, not merely a secondary role in the formation of theatrical perspective. Often it is the homosexual who tells the story or alters the plot through his or her alternative perspective.
This book not only analyzes the queer in McGuinness’s work, but also contributes to a widening of the conversation and criticism on Irish theatre in general. Its implementation of the internationally recognized paradigm of analysis, queer theory, is cutting-edge in its contribution to the general field of Irish studies as well. As a result of its two-fold agenda of theatrical and cultural analysis, this book not only brings together theories of the queer and the theatre of McGuinness, but it also maps the way in which this queer dramaturgy intersects with contemporary Irish society as it faces a new era of cultural re-invention.

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Chapter 4 Camping in Utopia: Carthaginians and the Queer Aesthetic 118

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CHAPTER 4 Camping in Utopia Carthaginians and the Queer Aesthetic n the previous chapters queer theory has functioned methodologically as a lens through which to articulate the otherwise silenced gay and lesbian voices from the past through the queer characters McGuinness creates. In this chapter we will examine how McGuinness deepens his dramaturgical interests in unsettling history into a series of queer practices, elements of per- formance that theatricalize his material in unique and entertaining ways. In other words, while still locating the politics of Irish identity in plot and char- acter, this chapter will illuminate ‘queer’ as a paradigm for the fuller mani- festation of the components of theatre that involve setting, costumes, textual structure and properties through an explorations of the applied practice of gay camp. In Carthaginians, first performed in the Peacock Theatre at the Abbey in 1988, directed by Sarah Pia Anderson, McGuinness continues his interest in Irish history. He focuses specifically on a modern event that lives on in the immediate memory of contemporary Irish experience, Bloody Sunday. Through this play McGuinness attempts to heal some of the wounds that for generations have shaded this politically contentious event. The play focuses on a diverse gathering of some citizens of the city of Derry in Northern Ire- land, camping out in a cemetery on the outskirts of town, waiting for the res- urrection of the dead. McGuinness creates a community of individual characters struggling with meaning in their lives. Marla, the eldest of the group in...

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