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Performing Irishness

Irish Drama on the Galician Stage

Elisa Serra Porteiro

Performing Irishness analyses the presence and impact of Irish drama in Galicia, a minorised cultural context where Ireland has historically been viewed as a recognisable, often inspirational, «other». Through her exploration of the ways in which translation choices interweave with theatre practice, the author reveals context and on-the-spot decisions as crucial elements in the adaptation and staging of the plays. This study traces the multiplicity of factors that determined the plays’ path from one culture to the other by means of interviews with theatre practitioners and a wealth of unpublished documents around the translation and production processes, resulting from extensive archival research. The voices behind the scenes provide us with a viewpoint that goes beyond the texts to generate a pluridimensional map of how Irish drama has travelled not only to Galicia but also to – and through – other Iberian stages.

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CHAPTER 1 Seizing Yeats: Irish folk-drama in the emergence of Galician theatrical identity


The Revista Nós, one of the emblematic periodicals of the Galeguismo, included in its eighth issue a version W. B. Yeats’s Cathleen ni Houlihan in 1921. Signed by Antón Villar Ponte, founding father of the movement for the rehabilitation of the language, this was the first Irish dramatic text published in the Galician language. In 1935, the Editorial Nós published Dous folc-dramas de W.B. Yeats, which included both the earlier play, under the ‘galicianised’ title Catuxa de Houlihan, and O país da saudade, a translation of The Land of Heart’s Desire. On this occasion, Antón Villar Ponte, his brother Ramón, and Plácido Castro appear as joint translators of the two plays. Those incorporations epitomise two interconnected elements historically attached to cultural products from the Irish context in Galicia, namely the perception of Ireland as a kindred nation on the one hand and, on the other, the need to redress the minority status of Galician culture.

The agents, the framing of the texts and the translation approach directly link in to an agenda of cultural and political legitimisation where Ireland and Irish drama were given a prominent role. However, these plays were not merely handpicked as part of a political strategy in the formulation of a national theatre. This chapter will examine how dramaturgical needs were also a key consideration in the incorporation of those two Yeats’s folk-dramas to the Galician system, a process that was also impacted by certain circumstantial factors,...

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