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Community Politics and the Peace Process in Contemporary Northern Irish Drama

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Eva Urban

This book examines theatre within the context of the Northern Ireland conflict and peace process, with reference to a wide variety of plays, theatre productions and community engagements within and across communities. The author clarifies both the nature of the social and political vision of a number of major contemporary Northern Irish dramatists and the manner in which this vision is embodied in text and in performance. The book identifies and celebrates a tradition of playwrights and drama practitioners who, to this day, challenge and question all Northern Irish ideologies and propose alternative paths. The author’s analysis of a selection of Northern Irish plays, written and produced over the course of the last thirty years or so, illustrates the great variety of approaches to ideology in Northern Irish drama, while revealing a common approach to staging the conflict and the peace process, with a distinct emphasis on utopian performatives and the possibility of positive change.

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Conclusion The present study has identified a consistent tradition within a great variety of Northern Irish political theatre practice, engaged creatively with the idea of conflict resolution and positive future visions for Northern Ireland. A representative number of Northern Irish playwrights and practitioners were chosen, to discuss the differing theatrical forms employed in the decon- struction of ideologies and mythologies that had become entrapments of the mind, and to imagine constructive alternatives. This theatrical, verbal, visual and musical rebellion against the politics of ideologues from all sides involved in and contributing to the conflict – both Loyalist and Republican extremists and the changing governing classes – has been analysed in the light of the definitions of political theatre proposed by theoreticians and practitioners such as Jill Dolan, Bertolt Brecht, Augusto Boal, Gordon McDougall, Baz Kershaw and Armand Gatti. The study has revealed and identified an organic development within a coherent body of innovative work that applies humanist ideals and intellectual criticism to contemporary conditions of civil conflict, and to the move towards a post-conflict society and the peace process. This political theatre practice is examined within the framework of utopian theory and literary criticism, with an emphasis on the utopian philosophy of Ernst Bloch, Michel Foucault’s concept of hetero- topia, the existentialist Marxism of Jean Paul Sartre, the utopian-feminist analysis of Angelika Bammer, the deconstructionist approach of Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes’ analysis of demythologization, Diana Knight’s re-evaluation of Barthes’ position in relation to utopia, and the concept of remythologization of Richard Kearney...

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