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From Stage to Page

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


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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CHAPTER EIGHTPortia Coughlan (Royal Court Theatre, 14 May 1996) 229


Chapter Eight Portia Coughlan (Royal Court Theatre, 14 May 1996) Very Irish in language and detail, universal when it comes to emotion. — Shaun Usher, Daily Mail 15 May 1996 Marina Carr was born in Dublin in 1964 but was brought up in County Of faly, in the region known as the Midlands (‘a very beautiful place, full of lakes and rivers and mountains and surrounded by the Bog of Allen’1). She graduated in 1987, at University College Dublin, where she had begun to write plays, and moved to New York, where she spent a year teaching and writing. Upon her return to Ireland she began a doctorate on Beckett at Trinity College Dublin. Her first plays – Low in the Dark (1989); The Deer’s Surrender (1990); Ullaloo (1991) – were Beckettian experiments, but Carr later adopted a more naturalistic style, producing a series of plays set in the Midlands. These include The Mai, which won the prize for Best New Play at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1994; Portia Coughlan (1996); On Raftery’s Hill (1996); and By the Bog of Cats (1998). She went on to write Ariel (2002) and Woman and Scarecrow (2006). As a spin-of f from their 2006/2007 ‘Complete Works Festival’ the Royal Shakespeare Company commissioned a play from Marina Carr. The result, a two-hander entitled The Cordelia Dream, opened at Wilton’s Music Hall on 16 December 2008, to unani- mously negative reviews. In February 2009 two of her plays received their world premières in Dublin in the...

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