Literature has always been one of our strongest suits, and holds its place in both college textbooks and travel guides to Ireland.
However, following the criticism that the Abbey centenary celebrations faced over the prevalence in their programme of Sean O’Casey and JM Synge in lieu of fresh talent, it was time to unleash a new generation of Irish playwrights, at the hands of the Lir Academy in Dublin.
Students from Lir’s master playwriting class showcased excerpts of their work at the Dublin Fringe Festival show, REWRITE.
Everything was on the menu, from sweaty post sex revelations to teenagers trying their hands at terrorism.
Highlights of the showcase event included The Expressionist Police, a very clever little piece by Northern native Daniel Butler. The young writer tricked the audience into thinking they are viewing a clichéd cop shop drama, before literally ripping up the script and turning the whole thing on its head.
Chuckee R Law (say it out loud) was a similarly smart and topical piece by one of the Lir’s youngest graduates, Caitriona Daly.
Set four years from now on the anniversary of the Easter rising, Daly took inspiration from the 2006 Love Ulster riots to explore the false sense of nationalism rife among young inner city inhabitants.
A Plough and the Stars for the 21st Century, Chuckee R Law showed promise, and a full performance of the play is eagerly anticipated.
A panel of writers discussed the role of the playwright at the REWRITE event.
Director of the Fringe Festival, Roise Goan, reminded us that playwrights today are not only expected to be write plays, but also to produce and a direct them.
Other members of the discussion panel included playwright Deirdre Kinahan, and “artist” Dylan Tighe. (The inverted commas denote Tighe’s contemporary approach to the idea of what a play is.)
Tighe seeks to move away from the idea of the play as simply a piece of literature, but rather as a performance for the here and now.
This was an interesting take on the role of the playwright, which Tighe appeared to reject. He placed more value on the acting and currency of a piece of work.
This was perhaps a controversial approach at an event that sought to promote the work of playwrights schooled in the traditional sense, but one cannot fail to see the romance in Tighe’s live- for-the-moment mentality.
However, Deirde Kinahan, also a renowned writer, was pragmatic in her thoughts on the role of the playwright in today’s society. Kinahan noted the pressure the economic downturn has put on young dramatists in getting their plays produced. A great number of Kinahan’s contemporaries have been forced to emigrate for that very reason. It does seem wrong that young writers, keen on continuing the Irish literary tradition, are hotfooting it to London.
When Caitriona Daly discussed how the Lir helped her bring her work from script to stage, she felt “the [playwriting] course gets the writer out of their room, and allows them to actually think about the production of their work”.
It is reassuring to know that although the banks have pulled the strings on our cultural funding purse, the future of Irish theatre is becoming more creative, and is continuing to push the boundaries.
As Wilde himself noted, it is the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.