- More Books:Ireland
In spring 2015, the Irish Times marked International Women’s Day by questioning the iconic “Irish Writers” poster that has long adorned Irish pubs, student dorms, and gift shops. The poster features 12 authors, most of them playwrights, all of whom are male. The Irish Times has now produced a new female-only version, although this in turn opened up a new line of questioning. Today, Dublin has a significant black community, so why did the 25 faces on the posters remain exclusively white? After all, the 2011 census revealed 17 percent of the nation had been born outside Ireland, an increase of 240 percent since 1996.
Several new books about Irish theatre tackle these issues of Ireland’s changing sense of national identity. Staging Intercultural Ireland is a valuable compendium of plays and interviews, highlighting how the Irish stage has responded to inward migration. Particularly good is the focus on versatile actor-playwright Donal O’Kelly, whose scripts have been largely unprinted until now. The editors also include work by the Nigerian-born theatre maker Bisi Adigun, although they acknowledge that Staging Intercultural Ireland is dominated by white, Irish-born dramatists. Readers may also feel disappointed that Adigun’s best-known work remains unavailable: due to a legal dispute with coauthor Roddy Doyle, there is still no published version of the Adigun-Doyle Playboy staged at the Abbey Theatre between 2007 and 2009.
Another important new resource is the play collection, Irish Women Dramatists 1908–2001. The editors include out-of-print work including Jennifer Johnston’s brilliant monologue (and excellent audition piece) Twinkletoes, which reveals the intersection of personal and political oppressions during the “Troubles,” that period of unrest and conflict that primarily took place [End Page 172] in Northern Ireland between 1968–1998. The editors also publish, for the first time, Dolores Walshe’s The Stranded Hours Between, a wonderful piece (which frequently recalls Brian Friel’s Translations) that is set in apartheid South Africa and depicts the liberation that a white woman might gain through contact with a Xhosa refugee from Mozambique. The editors’ decision to include Walshe’s drama reveals the potential power of transnational engagement, with the Irish female dramatist exploring a South African–Mozambican context in order to raise resonant issues of patriarchal control, racism, and civil violence. On the downside, however, the introduction to Irish Women Dramatists does not always dovetail neatly with the rest of this volume. Although the editors detail the richness of early- and mid-20th-century women’s playwriting, and although they praise Marina Carr and Marie Jones as “two shining stars” (18), there are only two scripts included in the volume that date from before 1984, and none by those particular “stars.”
Kathleen Gough’s Kinship and Performance is a further attempt to restore the female to Irish theatrical-historical thinking. Her sophisticated study relies on a range of theoretical ideas, reworking, for example, Richard Schechner’s “restoration of behavior” in order to rethink both the telos that Schechner implies, and his primary focus on the social actor, with Gough emphasizing instead that restoration of behavior “moves backward and forward in the archive” (17). This leads Gough to draw comparisons between the lives of contemporaneous black American and Irish women, such as Ida B. Wells and Maud Gonne. Gough includes fictional meetings between these characters, drafted as short stage pieces, in order to highlight the affinities she finds. These moments are engaging, although the study...