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Modern Irish Theatre

ISBN: 978-0-7456-3343-5
256 pages
November 2008, Polity
Modern Irish Theatre (0745633439) cover image
Analysing major Irish dramas and the artists and companies that performed them, Modern Irish Theatre provides an engaging and accessible introduction to twentieth-century Irish theatre: its origins, dominant themes, relationship to politics and culture, and influence on theatre movements around the world. By looking at her subject as a performance rather than a literary phenomenon, Trotter captures how Irish theatre has actively reflected and shaped debates about Irish culture and identity among audiences, artists, and critics for over a century.

This text provides the reader with discussion and analysis of:

  • Significant playwrights and companies, from Lady Gregory to Brendan Behan to Marina Carr, and from the Abbey Theatre to the Lyric Theatre to Field Day;
  • Major historical events, including the war for Independence, the Troubles, and the social effects of the Celtic Tiger economy;
  • Critical Methodologies: how postcolonial, diaspora, performance, gender, and cultural theories, among others, shed light on Irish theatre’s political and artistic significance, and how it has addressed specific national concerns.

Because of its comprehensiveness and originality, Modern Irish Theatre will be of great interest to students and general readers interested in theatre studies, cultural studies, Irish studies, and political performance.

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Acknowledgements vii

Timeline of Signifi cant Events in Irish Arts and Politics ix

Introduction 1

Part I: Performing the Nation, 1891-1916 5

Introduction to Part I 7

1 Imagining an Aesthetic: Modern Irish Theatre’s First Years 13

2 Realisms and Regionalisms 35

Part II: War and After, 1916-1948 61

Introduction to Part II 63

3 The Abbey Becomes Institution: 1916-1929 67

4 New Voices of the 1930s and 1940s 91

Part III: Rewriting Tradition, 1948-1980 113

Introduction to Part III 115

5 Irish Theatre in the 1950s 119

6 Irish Theatre's Second Wave 136

Part IV: Re-imagining Ireland, 1980-2007 151

Introduction to Part IV 153

7 Theatres Without Borders: Irish Theatre in the 1980s 157

8 A New Sense of Place: Irish Theatre since the 1990s 176

Conclusion: What is an Irish Play? 195

Notes 199

Bibliography 210

Index 224

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Mary Trotter is Associate Professor of Theatre and Drama at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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“Mary Trotter’s Modern Irish Theatre will find a permanent residence on the reading lists for every course I teach on modern and contemporary drama. Her expertise is vast and deep, and this book makes a fine, unique contribution to our knowledge of the ‘infinite variety’ of Irish drama.”
Stephen Watt, Indiana University


“Through a set of superbly constructed phases Mary Trotter situates twentieth-century Irish theatre in its evolving socio-political contexts. She covers theatrical activities from Belfast to Cork and from Dublin to Galway, analysing along the way a vast array of texts and performances from the high modernism of the early Abbey through to the community theatre of Charabanc. In a highly accessible style she articulates superbly how Irish theatre has performed the nation, how its use of realism can be read as counter-hegemonic, and how representations of gender and race have disrupted the myth of the rural in the theatrical imaginary.”
Brian Singleton, Trinity College, Dublin

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