Hi everyone. How is everyone doing? So this week some restrictions are being slowly eased in Ireland. We can wander more freely in our own county and it looks like that by next month some art galleries will open. There may even be some semblance of the Irish pub in existence once more! Like a visit to an art gallery, another one of my favorite pastimes at the weekend is a visit to the theater. Sadly, it looks like it will be quite sometime before we can enjoy that particular pastime as we once knew it so this week I thought I’d share some of my favorite Irish plays. There are many of course and I have many favorites. The following are my classic must-sees from the Irish theater canon.
5 Great Irish Plays
1. The Plough and The Stars
The Plough and the Stars is the third play in Sean O Casey’s Dublin Trilogy, the other two being The Shadow of a Gunman and Juno and the Paycock. Written in 1926, it follows the lives of a group of people in an impoverished Dublin Tenement at the time of the 1916 Easter Rising. On its opening night at the Abbey Theater in February 1926, it caused riots in the audience! Some people felt the play was disrespectful to Irish patriotism and the people who had lost their lives during the Rising.
2. Dancing at Lughnasa
Brian Friel’s 1990 classic play revolves around the lives of the 5 Mundy sisters in the fictional town of Ballybeg in County Donegal. The action takes place in August 1936 at the time of the Celtic harvest festival, Lughnasa. It went on to win the Olivier award for best play and 3 Tony awards. A film version in 1998 starred the wonderful Meryl Streep as Kate Mundy.
3. The Playboy of the Western World
Another Irish classic that also caused riots at the Abbey Theater when it was first performed! No list of classic Irish plays would be complete without The Playboy of the Western World. The play was written by John Millington Synge in 1907 and tells the story of Christy Mahon who has fled his farm after apparently killing his father. At the time of its premiere, people were outraged at the depiction Irish rural life and especially at the sight of “a drift of females standing in their shifts” Over a hundred years later it remains a much performed favorite. The play is lauded for its poetic writing, much influenced by the lyricism of the Irish language.
4. Waiting for Godot
In a 1999 poll by the British National Theatre, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett was voted the “most significant English language play of the 20th century”. Beckett originally wrote the play in french between 1948-49 and it premiered in Paris in 1953. The action revolves around two men, Estragon and Vladimir and follows their encounters and conversations while they wait for Godot, who never shows up. It has been described as bleak, funny and poetic and interpretations of its meaning are varied. 60 years after its first outing, it continues to cast its spell on audiences all over the world.
5. The Importance of Being Earnest
Although set in the upper class world of Victorian England in the 19th century, this classic comedy comes from one of Ireland’s most celebrated playwrights, Oscar Wilde. First performed in London in 1895, it is one of Wilde’s funniest and most popular plays. It is performed regularly to this day and had been adapted for film 3 times.
Before I go, I’d just like to share a short clip of the last performance I attended at a packed to capacity theater in Dublin. It was a tribute to the words and music of Leonard Cohen and featured the RTE Concert Orchestra. Little did I know then that it would be my last trip to the theater for quite some time so I’m holding on tight to the memory of this very special performance-enjoy!
Join me on Monday for the Virtual Tour of Ireland and a trip to my absolute favorite Irish county-Sligo!
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!