Provoking performance: challenging the people, the state and the patriarchy in 1980s Irish Theatre
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Summary of Contents: Provoking Performance: Challenging the People, the State and the Patriarchy in 1980s Irish Theatre This thesis offers new perspectives and knowledge to the discipline of Irish theatre studies and historiography and addresses an overlooked period of Irish theatre. It aims to investigate playwriting and theatre-making in the Republic of Ireland during the 1980s. Theatre’s response to failures of the Irish state, to the civil war in Northern Ireland, and to feminist and working-class concerns are explored in this thesis; it is as much an exploration of the 1980s as it is of plays and playwrights during the decade. As identified by a literature review, scholarly and critical attention during the 1980s was drawn towards Northern Ireland where playwrights were engaging directly with the conflict in Northern Ireland. This means that proportionally the work of many playwrights in the Republic remains unexamined and unpublished. In addressing this knowledge gap my research provides a broad and unique study of theatre in Ireland in the specific period—the1980s— and a focused dramaturgical examination of particular plays with specific themes representative of the period. Feminist readings of work by Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy, Dolores Walshe, Patricia Burke Brogan and Anne Le Marquand Hartigan reveal Irish women’s dissatisfaction and anger with church and state and engage with the feminist movement throughout the 1980s from essentialist second-wave feminism to a feminist rejection of compromise or negotiation with the patriarchy. Plays by Thomas Kilroy, Hugh Leonard, Tom Murphy, and Aidan Carl Mathews among others demonstrate a vehement anti-state stance in the Republic at the time, along with postcolonial or revisionist themes so resonant of their time and of the impact of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The use of a Bakhtinian framework allows the plays of The Passion Machine Theatre Company to reveal challenging and provocative working-class themes. My work opens up fertile new ground for scholarship in this area, helping us to understand the artistic, cultural and social motivation of those writing in 1980s Ireland and revealing their influences and perspectives.
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