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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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Preface

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Landscapes push back, shaping our bodies as we move through our lives. It is ‘written into your senses’, as Seamus Heaney wrote, ‘from the minute you begin to breathe’.1 I was raised in Kerry on the west coast of Ireland and that, no doubt, has shaped me. Land positioned on the Atlantic seaboard means a mild and moist climate, battered peninsulas, and roaring tides. It’s where red fuchsias blanket the hedgerows, where ridged and furrowed lazy beds are etched into the landscape. It, too, is etched into and on to my body. Environmental narratives are produced as the space around us bears down on our skin, into our senses and on to our minds. Our stories are our engagements with our natural worlds. This book will focus on that interchange: the unseen transfer between matter and the infinitesimal exchanges that pass us by.

I chose theatre as a locus for my exploration of environmental narratives. Theatre is a visceral art medium that involves the artist’s body merging with its surroundings. Bodies and space are engaged in the production of a performance; that environment is under review here. Why write a book on Irish theatre environments? Because arguing for the active agency of nonhuman matter in theatre environments – that is, narratives, histories, spaces and landscapes – is an argument for the force of materiality, the power of things, rather than of people. Theatre frames that idea of a body in space. It is a social form of situating...

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