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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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Sometimes the Archive Lies (Colin Murphy)

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Colin Murphy

Sometimes the Archive Lies

One of the moments I have wrestled most with on each of my documentary dramas is the moment where I tell the audience the story is true.

As I write this, I am trying to finish Haughey/Gregory, a play about ‘the Gregory Deal’.1 The device I am considering using is having the words ‘based on a true story’ projected on the back wall, from an acetate projector (it is set in 1982, after all; and then, as the play starts, one of the actors will scrawl ‘loosely’ before that title, to read: ‘*loosely* based on a true story’. In my first play, Guaranteed!, I went to the other extreme, having the ensemble open the play with a lengthy exposition on my method. Because this is an academic publication, and I can perhaps presume on greater tolerance from my readers, I will print the whole of it here - I can’t quite believe that I actually had actors say this (and that the director Conal Morrison allowed me):

This play is based on a true story. But it is not the whole truth, and it is not always the literal truth.

The words spoken by identified characters in public settings in this play are based chiefly on the actual words spoken by those people, as recorded in the media or in official transcripts. They have been edited and, on occasion, statements made by the same...

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