I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Drama in the Catacombs

Drama in the Catacombs

Máirín Nic Eoin
An Underground Theatre: Major Playwrights in the Irish Language 1930-1980, by Philip O’Leary, UCD Press, 2017, xv + 383pp, €50, ISBN: 978-19108205 Irish Studies scholars are familiar with Philip O’Leary’s work as a critic and historian of modern Irish-language literature, and particularly as author of four major book-length studies of Revival and post-Revival Irish-language prose. His latest book shares with these works a research methodology that combines an exhaustive account of a wide range of original texts with a critical sensitivity to the political and cultural context and the linguistic and aesthetic challenges facing playwrights working through Irish. Unlike the earlier books, where a thematic approach is applied and where the work of lesser-known authors is discussed side by side with the achievements of major writers, An Underground Theatre: Major Playwrights in the Irish Language 1930-1980 focuses on the work of five acclaimed authors, Máiréad Ní Ghráda, Séamus Ó Néill, Eoghan Ó Tuairisc, Seán Ó Tuama and Críostóir Ó Floinn. Each chapter opens with a biographical and critical introduction, followed by a chronological account of the author’s dramatic works, including production histories, critical reception and detailed plot summaries. Of these five authors, Máiréad Ní Ghráda is undoubtedly the most well-known as a dramatist, due to the canonical status of her most renowned play An Triail (first staged in An Damer in Dublin in 1964). Unlike most of the plays discussed in the book, this powerful exploration of Irish society’s attitudes towards unmarried mothers has been staged regularly over the years, mainly due to its inclusion on post-primary Irish syllabi. One of O’Leary’s objectives in this book, however, is to draw readers’ attention to important works that have been ignored or neglected, and to make claims for their inclusion in a more extensive and ambitious Irish-language theatre repertoire. This would include works by Máiréad Ní Ghráda, such as her one-act play on the theme of dementia, Lá Buí Bealtaine (which premiered in the Abbey Theatre in 1953), and her political satire Breithiúnas (staged in the Peacock Theatre in 1968 but never subsequently revived), a play similar in form and style to An Triail, and still effective as a hard-hitting critique of the cult of personality in Irish political culture. Similar claims for recognition are made for works by the other four authors, and one is struck in particular by the prescience and sophistication of historical plays such as Seán Ó Tuama’s Gunna Cam agus Slabhra Óir, set in sixteenth-century Donegal (which…



Dublin’s Oldest Independent BookshopBooks delivered worldwide