In Synge and the Making of Modern Irish Drama, Anthony Roche draws on twenty-five years of engagement with Synge’s plays to present ten chapters on the unfolding of a double narrative.
The first argues the extent and ways in which John Millington Synge self-consciously undertook to become the founding playwright of an Irish national theatre. Synge’s rapid development as a playwright is examined in relation to Yeats and Joyce. His love affair with Abbey Theatre actress Máire O’Neill (Molly Allgood) is treated in depth, both in terms of their troubled life together and the vibrant roles he wrote for her.
The book’s second narrative moves from Synge’s historical time to the present day, to consider what subsequent Irish playwrights have made of his dramatic legacy. Samuel Beckett, asked by his biographer to name the dramatists whose plays had meant the most to him, uttered only the name of Synge in reply. This study also traces in illuminating detail the impact of Synge’s revolutionary plays on a range of contemporary playwrights: Brian Friel, Stewart Parker, Marina Carr and Martin McDonagh, to examine how this influence and recent productions of Synge’s work have enabled him to remain our contemporary. It will be of considerable interest to students of Irish drama both in Ireland and worldwide.