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Contemporary Irish Theatre

Transnational Practices


Kao Wei H.

This monograph is one of the first to examine a collection of Irish plays from a transnational perspective in today’s era of globalization. The works dealt with in this study dramatize how foreign cultures are integrated into contemporary Ireland. In addition, they focus on the experiences of immigrants and marginalized people living on the fringes of Irish society. The aim of this book is therefore two-fold: first, it highlights how specific theatrical productions reflect the global factors at work in modern Ireland; second, it seeks to document how Irish dramatists exert a profound impact on theatre practitioners from non-English speaking countries and enrich their stage aesthetics. Accordingly, the works discussed in this book have not been authored by Irish playwrights only. They are set in the Middle East, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, the UK, and the USA. This monograph concentrates both on canonical and established playwrights, such as Dion Boucicault, Edward Harrigan, Eugene O’Neill, Sean O’Casey, Brendan Behan, Samuel Beckett, Frank McGuinness, Sebastian Barry, Tom Murphy, Marina Carr, and on lesser-known writers, including Jimmy Murphy, Dolores Walshe, Damian Smyth, Colin Teevan, among others.
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III. Migrant Workers on Stage: Tom Murphy’s Conversations on a Homecoming and Jimmy Murphy’s The Kings of the Kilburn High Road


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III. Migrant Workers on Stage: Tom Murphy’s Conversations on a Homecoming and Jimmy Murphy’s The Kings of the Kilburn High Road

Introduction: From Home to Unhomely

Not long before the Celtic Tiger emerged in the mid-1990s the Irish were still depicted by Roddy Doyle, who perhaps intended something more than a humorous expression, as “the blacks of Europe” in his 1991 novel (7), The Commitments, given that poverty, widely known to the outside world, had been so inscribed as a nightmare on the Irish psyche that young people were prompted to seek foreign employment and emigrate. Nevertheless, behind the façade of the Celtic Tiger is a little-seen “unhealable rift” of which Irish exiles were formerly unaware but which now prompts Irish people – at home and overseas – to recognize their homeland as containing new and unfamiliar faces (Said, “The Mind of Winter” 49). According to Edward W. Said, this rift is “forced [to open] between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home” (“The Mind of Winter” 49). Thus it can only with difficulty be healed and forgotten, regardless of whether Ireland has become a new destination for migrants due to its remarkable prosperity in the Celtic Tiger era. To explore their ignored voices that are largely left out of the official histories of Ireland and the countries where they arrived, this chapter will examine how social injustice and alienation confined Irish migrant workers to the...

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