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From Stage to Page

Critical Reception of Irish Plays in the London Theatre, 1925–1996

Series:

Peter James Harris

In December 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, which led to the creation of the Irish Free State and the partition of Ireland the following year. The consequences of that attempt to reconcile the conflicting demands of republicans and unionists alike have dictated the course of Anglo-Irish relations ever since. This book explores how the reception of Irish plays staged in theatres in London’s West End serves as a barometer not only of the state of relations between Great Britain and Ireland, but also of the health of the British and Irish theatres respectively.
For each of the eight decades following Irish Independence a representative production is set in the context of Anglo-Irish relations in the period and developments in the theatre of the day. The first-night criticism of each production is analysed in the light of its political and artistic context as well as the editorial policy of the publication for which a given critic is writing.
The author argues that the relationship between context and criticism is not simply one of cause and effect but, rather, the result of the interplay of a number of cultural, historical, political, artistic and personal factors.

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Preface by Professor Richard Allen Cave xi

Extract

Preface I have known about Peter Harris’s project since the time of its inception. When he won a São Paulo State Research Foundation award to undertake the basic research in England and Ireland (chief ly in the British Library), he needed as a condition of the award to attach himself as visiting scholar to a British academic institution; and Peter chose to come to Royal Holloway. I was enormously impressed by the scope and originality of the enterprise (that he won a highly competitive scholarship in the first place was proof of its potential excellence), particularly as Peter reported to me regularly on the compilation of a Chronological Table of Plays Produced in London (1920–2006), the fruit of that initial library research. This was a vast under- taking for which scholars will be in his debt for decades to come. It seems on the face of it an obvious venture to undertake, but no one had seen fit actually to do so because, I would suspect, the sheer volume of work involved proved overly daunting. Ben Levitas and I were delighted to publish the finished lists in our co-edited volume for the Irish Theatrical Diaspora Series, Irish Theatre in England (Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2007). It had always been Peter Harris’s intention to compile the Chronological Table as a necessary preliminary stage in exploring which Irish plays by which dramatists had proved most popular with London audiences decade by decade over the period he investigated and the reasons why...

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