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Navigating Ireland's Theatre Archive

Theory, Practice, Performance

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Edited By Barry Houlihan

The historiography of Irish theatre has largely been dependent on in-depth studies of the play-text as the definitive primary source. This volume explores the processes of engaging with the documented and undocumented record of Irish theatre and broadens the concept of evidential study of performance through the use of increasingly diverse sources. The archive is regarded here as a broad repository of evidence including annotated scripts, photographs, correspondence, administrative documents, recordings and other remnants of the mechanics of producing theatre. It is an invaluable resource for scholars and artists in interrogating Ireland’s performance history.

This collection brings together key thinkers, scholars and practitioners who engage with the archive of Irish theatre and performance in terms of its creation, management and scholarly as well as artistic interpretation. New technological advances and mass digitization allow for new interventions in this field. The essays gathered here present new critical thought and detailed case studies from archivists, theatre scholars, historians and artists, each working in different ways to uncover and reconstruct the past practice of Irish performance through new means.

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Performing the Troubles at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, 1969–1981 (Conor O’Malley)

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Conor O’Malley

Performing the Troubles at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, 1969–1981

This chapter recounts the memory of a pivotal decade in the history of a theatre. The Lyric Theatre in Belfast is today one of the largest and longest established cultural centres on the island of Ireland. For over half a century it has played a significant role in the theatrical and artistic identity of Northern Ireland, growing from amateur roots to professional success, with challenges and controversies also encountered along with its many achievements. The dates which book-end this essay are also iconic in their symbolism, recognisable individually as flashpoints in the political turmoil encountered in the North. These events notably range from the Battle of the Bogside in August 1969 through to a transformative decade in terms of politics, industry, society and economy, as witnessed globally through the 1970s, to the death of ten Republican prisoners through hunger strike at the Maze Prison in 1981. The date range is symbolic for other reasons. It also charts the contemporaneous professionalisation of the North’s then newest and producing theatre venue, the Lyric Theatre.

Today, the Lyric Theatre archive is deposited within the Hardiman Library of NUI Galway. Comprising over seventy boxes of manuscripts, printed material, ephemera and audio-visual material, the archive documents the establishment, administration, artistic policy and the many personalities that governed a multi-faceted venture, that was an ‘Arts Centre’ as much as strictly ‘just’ a theatre. The Lyric archive holds, among...

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