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Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939

Gender and Violence on Stage


Cathy Leeney

Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is the first book to examine the plays of five fascinating and creative women, placing their work for theatre in co-relation to suggest a parallel tradition that reframes the development of Irish theatre into the present day.
How these playwrights dramatize violence and its impacts in political, social, and personal life is a central concern of this book. Augusta Gregory, Eva Gore-Booth, Dorothy Macardle, Mary Manning, and Teresa Deevy re-model theatrical form, re-structuring action and narrative, and exploring closure as a way of disrupting audience expectation. Their plays create stage spaces and images that expose relationships of power and authority, and invite the audience to see the performance not as illusion, but as framed by the conventions and limits of theatrical representation.
Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is suitable for courses in Irish theatre, women in theatre, gender and performance, dramaturgy, and Irish drama in the twentieth century as well as for those interested in women’s work in theatre and in Irish theatre in the twentieth century.


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Chapter 4: Mary Manning: Unseasonal Youth / 127


ChAPTeR 4 Mary Manning (1906–1999) Unseasonal Youth ‘Should the Theatre Be International?’; this was the title given to a symposium held at the Gate Theatre in Dublin in 1932. Hilton Edwards, director of the Theatre, stated that he would ‘prefer that Irish drama was incidentally national rather than consciously national.’1 His words were reported in the Gate’s magazine Motley, whose young editor, Mary Manning was, in her own work looking satirically at Ireland in relation to a wider context, exposing plurality and absurdity in varieties of Irishness, and coolly observant of Ireland’s postcolonial crisis. Although she began her career in theatre as an actress at the Abbey Theatre, Mary Manning quickly found that her restless energy and fresh ideas had a place with Michael MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards at the Dublin Gate. The theatre, named for the Gate in London, was described by Edwards as ‘a bunch of upstarts uncomfortably progressive and intensely alive.’2 The partners had founded their theatre in 1928, with performances of classic, European and American plays at the Peacock Theatre; for their third season in 1930, they moved into the Gate Theatre, part of the Rotunda complex at the north end of O’Connell Street. Manning, writ- ing as drama critic in the Irish Independent, was quick to point out how the increased capacity of the Gate had led to more conservative programming, with revivals of successful productions mixed with new work. Edwards and MacLiammóir were jolted by this trenchant critique. Edwards requested...

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