“IRISH NIGHTS”: PARATHEATRICAL PERFORMANCES OF MELODRAMA ON AND OFF THE BELFAST STAGE

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Abstract

This article examines the phenomenon of “Irish Nights”: performances of popular, political melodramas in Belfast that precipitated riotous paratheatrical responses from its working-class audiences. Described as “melodramas within melodramas,” Irish Nights were unique to Belfast given its context as a crucible of sectarian conflict in the late 1800s. However, the lack of “real” rioting outside theatres on Irish Nights suggests these in-house ructions, in a city all too often racked by very real rioting, were mock ones; rituals; part of the night out. Irish Nights are also explored in relation to Belfast’s reputation as a notoriously tough audience for touring theatre, and in relation to riotous rural performances of historical melodramas staged by local loyalist and nationalist secret societies. It argues that these melodramatic performances, though comically chaotic, were complex, paratheatrical performances of power and resistance that raise provocative questions as to the political agency of audiences: an issue largely ignored in Irish theatre historiography and criticism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-168
Number of pages26
JournalTheatre Survey
Volume59
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2018

Keywords

  • melodrama
  • Irish Theatre
  • Belfast
  • Boucicault
  • theatre history
  • Popular Culture
  • Battle of Aughrim
  • Siege of Londonderry
  • Lord Edward Fitzgerald
  • J.W. Whitbread
  • Theatre historiography
  • theatre riots
  • modernism
  • Working-class history
  • audience
  • sectarian conflict
  • irish nights

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