Spectres of Fiction: New Political Contexts for the Playboy of the Western World

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The 2019 Lyric Theatre and Dublin Theatre Festival co-production of J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (1907), directed by Oonagh Murphy, encouraged an abstract reading of the play in new political contexts. Set in the 1980s at the Derry / Donegal border and performed in Northern Irish accents, it was haunted by references to the area’s history of deprivation, powerlessness, the violence and victims of the conflict, the Disappeared, the communal trauma, and the current threat posed by Brexit. This essay explores how Murphy’s production highlighted spectres of fiction in the play, haunted not only by historical dramaturgical traditions and by the ghosts of the Northern Irish conflict but also by the ghosts of ancient wandering Irish bards. It offers a contemporary approach that situates the play’s preoccupation with fiction within an international context of the “social realities” of populist propaganda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-117
JournalÉtudes Irlandaises
Issue number1
Early online date24 Sep 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 24 Sep 2020


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