Almost from the beginning, since 1970, new plays became part of the Focus’s repertory. Starting with Peter Terson’s Mooney and His Caravan, and Declan Burke-Kennedy’s The Trespasser in 1973, new plays continued to be produced and some, such as actor-playwright Ena May (Out of the Beehive 1987; She’s Your Mother, Too, You Know 1988; A Close Shave With the Devil 2001), finding an artistic home for their works, though not in the numbers that established plays and classics had been produced under Deirdre’s leadership. Since 2002 under Joe Devlin’s artistic direction, Focus has reversed the emphasis with new plays taking the lion’s share of the theatre’s performances and, in the process, reinvigorated itself during the past decade.
Of the seven plays in this anthology, (five are from Joe’s leadership) all exhibit a range in styles from Lewis Carroll’s fantastical world (Alice in Wonderland by Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy), to a couple on the brink of a philandering weekend disaster (The Day of the Mayfly by Declan Burke-Kennedy), to a one-man show about Jonathan Swift with several characters all played by the same actor (Talking Through His Hat by Michael Harding); an examination of two shoplifting thieves and the would-be writer who gets in their way (Pinching for My Soul by Elizabeth Moynihan), a battle royal between two sides of a world-famous painter (Francis & Frances by Brian McAvera), the reactions of multiple New Yorkers to that moment on September 11, 2001 when their world was changed forever (New York Monologues by Mike Poblete), to the final days of an iconic movie star (Hollywood Valhalla by Aidan Harney).
Each of these scripts is followed by short notes from the playwright, a memory of the production and in some cases its aims by its author. As will become quite clear, there is no single Focus play, no play which perfectly captures the spirit, the aesthetic aims, the physical abilities of this continually surprising fifty-year-old company.