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Re-Place

Irish Theatre Environments

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Lisa FitzGerald

What role does nature play in the cultural world of the theatre? Is the auditorium not a natural environment, and how can theatre and nature aesthetics co-exist in the productive expression of performance? Re-Place: Irish Theatre Environments proposes a new way of thinking about Irish theatre: one that challenges established boundaries between nature and culture and argues for theatre performances to be seen as conceptual ecological environments. Broadening the scope of theatre environments to encompass radiophonic and digital spaces, Re-Place is a timely interrogation of how we understand performance history. This book examines the work, both as text and in production, of three canonical Irish playwrights, J. M. Synge, Samuel Beckett and Brian Friel, and looks at how theatre documentation can further the idea of a natural performance environment. The questions under consideration extend Irish theatre history into the field of the environmental humanities and draw on new materialist discourse to offer exciting and innovative ways to approach performance.

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Chapter 4: Ballybeg and the Conceptual Fifth Province

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CHAPTER 4

Ballybeg and the Conceptual Fifth Province

The West is not the only archetypal environment that marks Irish identity and cultural history. The North, too, is a place where cultural identity has emerged, been formed, and contested. The Field Day Theatre Company was a cross border initiative financed by the Art Councils on both sides of the Irish border. The fifth province of the mind was to function metaphorically, in the same way that the theatrical landscapes in this book work: as a conceptual environment. The company sought to create a place where notions of Irishness can be teased out. Richard Pine has described the company as having one ‘vital physical property’ in that the ‘point at the centre of the crossroads, the meeting place of the four provinces, is the quintessence – the fifth place at which the essential secret or truth is buried’.1 The fifth province that Field Day sought to establish with their two most renowned productions, Translations and Making History, underscores the idea of landscape as a conceptual environment. Marilynn Richtarik notes that Field Day’s objective was ‘the notion of a fifth province above the fray of national politics and the conviction that art could shape as well as reflect society’.2 Field Day is a theatre company that has defined itself spatially from its inception. They describe the fifth province as a ‘province of the mind through which we hope to devise another way of looking at Ireland,...

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