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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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IV. A Russian Mirror to Ireland: Migration in Tom Murphy’s The House and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard


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IV. A Russian Mirror to Ireland: Migration in Tom Murphy’s The House and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard

Anton Chekhov, whose career was partially inspired by Henrik Ibsen, exerted an influence on many European playwrights, a number of whom were Irish, by producing “problem plays” in the style of “unflinching, analytical realism” (Leerssen 47). Specifically, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters were adapted respectively by Frank McGuinness in 1980 and by Brian Friel in 1981 for the newly-founded Field Day Theatre Company, in order to “bring quality drama to the people of rural Ireland” (Richtarik 196).1 Thomas Kilroy, also a Field Day playwright, adapted Chekhov’s The Seagull in 1981, not only transporting the action to “the wilds of Galway” but employing a peculiar language familiar to the Irish audience so that they would not be “lost in [the] polite vagueness” of existing English translations (Kilroy, “Seagull” 80).

Tom Murphy, having emigrated to London with his blue-collar family in 1962 and worked “on the buses or on the buildings or in pubs,” gained first-hand knowledge of emigrants who were struggling in “Irish ghettos” where dwellers, in his own words, “carry a most curious guilt that they were very much inferior to the people they had left behind” (Billington 96). These Irish people, however, felt alienated or even distrusted when they returned home, which still breathed, to some extent, a xenophobic air with its religious and political sentiments. Witnessing “an extraordinary cult of...

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