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Breaking Boundaries

An Anthology of Original Plays from The Focus Theatre


Edited By Steven Dedalus Burch

Almost from the beginning, since 1970, new plays became part of the Focus’s repertory. Starting with Peter Terson’s Mooney and His Caravan, and Declan Burke-Kennedy’s The Trespasser in 1973, new plays continued to be produced and some, such as actor-playwright Ena May (Out of the Beehive 1987; She’s Your Mother, Too, You Know 1988; A Close Shave With the Devil 2001), finding an artistic home for their works, though not in the numbers that established plays and classics had been produced under Deirdre’s leadership. Since 2002 under Joe Devlin’s artistic direction, Focus has reversed the emphasis with new plays taking the lion’s share of the theatre’s performances and, in the process, reinvigorated itself during the past decade.

Of the seven plays in this anthology, (five are from Joe’s leadership) all exhibit a range in styles from Lewis Carroll’s fantastical world (Alice in Wonderland by Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy), to a couple on the brink of a philandering weekend disaster (The Day of the Mayfly by Declan Burke-Kennedy), to a one-man show about Jonathan Swift with several characters all played by the same actor (Talking Through His Hat by Michael Harding); an examination of two shoplifting thieves and the would-be writer who gets in their way (Pinching for My Soul by Elizabeth Moynihan), a battle royal between two sides of a world-famous painter (Francis & Frances by Brian McAvera), the reactions of multiple New Yorkers to that moment on September 11, 2001 when their world was changed forever (New York Monologues by Mike Poblete), to the final days of an iconic movie star (Hollywood Valhalla by Aidan Harney).

Each of these scripts is followed by short notes from the playwright, a memory of the production and in some cases its aims by its author. As will become quite clear, there is no single Focus play, no play which perfectly captures the spirit, the aesthetic aims, the physical abilities of this continually surprising fifty-year-old company.

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A Word to the Wise (further reflections by Brian McAvera)

This is not a biographical play. I’m not interested in biography as such, but I am interested in what generates ‘art’ in any medium, and thus am obviously interested in the relationship between an individual’s art and his or her life. That ‘life’ operates within a social, cultural and political context as does the ‘art’ that the individual produces.

For a very long time now, I have been looking at the work of Francis Bacon. To be precise I first came across it when I was seventeen or eighteen, circa 1966, when working on a summer job in London. I came across a huge pile of a serial magazine called The Masters, stacked close to the front door of a bookshop in Holborn. There were one hundred issues, each featuring an artist, with sixteen very good colour plates on thick quality paper, and each issue had an introduction by a recognized authority. Before the summer was out I had bought most of them, including the one on Bacon which was introduced by Sir John Rothenstein, then Director of the Tate Gallery.

In a sense my education in drama and my education in the visual arts went hand in hand. At university I discovered stage-directing and started to write plays. I also started to collect books on art. I had attempted to paint (copying Van Gogh and Degas) but I rapidly recognized that...

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