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March 7, 2018


Mapping Irish Theatre

by N@ncy

Irish cottage (or kitchen)….is often the setting of Irish plays!


Writer : Chris Morash, Shaun Richards
Title: Mapping Irish Theatre (175 pg)
Published: 2013


Who is Chris Morash?

  1. Professor Chris Morash is the first
  2. Professor of Irish Writing
  3. …in Heaney’s name at Trinity College.
  4. This appointment is permanent.
  5. The professorship was announced shortly before  Seamus Heaney’s death.
  6. Dr Morash is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada
  7. …with no Irish connection.
  8. He came to Ireland in 1985 to study Irish writing in Trinity.


What is theatre?

  1. Seamus Heaney put it very simply:
  2. …theatre is a machine for making place from space.
  3. Mapping Irish Theatre examines the
  4. …relationship between a society and its theatre.
  5. Irish plays are deeply entrenched sense of place.
  6. Place in Irish theatre involves a particular set of
  7. …relations to memory, loss and nostalgia.


What did I learn?   (…essential to understand if you read this book!)

Three forms of space:

  1. perceived -to be aware of directly through any of the senses
  2. conceivedto form or develop in the mind
  3. livedto be experienced between the performers and audience
  4. Space is different from performance to performance.
  5. Space is different through historical periods.
  6. Example:  I just read Tartuffe.
  7. It was performed 1669.
  8. But Chris  Hampton’s translation and adaptation
  9. ..that is to open in May 2018 in London
  10. …will be very different.
  11. Elements of language, dialogue, scenery
  12. will change over time.


Theatre space:

  1. It is an unspoken element of the text
  2. a zone filled with gaps where
  3. gestures and movements unfold.


What was the most difficult issue to understand?     Theatre signals

  1. The stage radically transforms all objects.
  2.  These objects have a signifying  power which
  3. …they lack in  their normal social function.
  4. All that is on stage is a sign.
  5. Door = theatrical signal
  6. For instance in a play…..we see a door.
  7. It is not only means of entering and leaving the stage.
  8. It is the focus point.
  9. Behind it is an imagined offstage world
  10. …that is just as important as the dramatic action on the stage!


What was the best part of the book?     I discovered so many types of plays!

  1. Padraic Colum’s The Fiddler’s House (1907)
  2. …stranger-in-the-house
  3. Brian Friel’s   Dancing at Lughnasa (1990)
  4. ….(cottage) kitchen  the kitchen- and- sink- play.
  5. Conor McPherson’s  The Weir (1997)  a pastoral play
  6. …our outside concerns are suspended  so that an
  7. act of inner healing to be achieved
  8. Tom Murphy’s Famine (1977)  historical outcome (unknown to characters)
  9. …but glaringly self-evident to us….famine/depopulation hangs like a cloud.
  10. Brian Friel’s Freedom of the City (1973) past-in-the-presemt play
  11. Characters  are simultaneously dead and
  12. …present before the audience!


What will I do now when reading a play…that I didn’t do before?

  1. Note: notice the first lines of plays….what do they refer to?
  2. Note: what is implied as happening or a place ‘offstage’ ?
  3. Note:  what is the conflict between  offstage  vs  on-stage?
  4. Note: important objects on stage…( first character we meet in
  5. Dancing at Lughnasa is is Marconi…the radio!
  6. Note: space on the stage: is it familiar to the characters?
  7. …home kitchen in  The Aran Islands (Synge)
  8. …exiles in an abandoned church  in Sanctuary Lamp (1975) T. Murphy
  9. The  characters have to learn about the space along with the audience.



  1. This was a very academic read.
  2. Example:
  3. Difficult way of saying things…!
  4. Morash: Play produced dialogically…
  5. Nancy: ….in other words …written in dialogue.
  6. How else are you supposed to write a play? (pg 115)
  7. It took me 3 days to read the book and my
  8. determination paid off.
  9. I never realized that a play is MUCH more
  10. …than a script  and actors!
  11. Chapters 2-3-4-5  were the best.
  12. Morash explains in more detail  specific Irish plays and
  13. …that was what I was looking for!
  14. The central to the craft of play-writing (Irish)
  15. …is the  shaping of experience into scenes.
  16. Opening of a play and starting to read it
  17. … is like going to a party where you don’t know anyone.
  18. Characters unfold in time and
  19. …first impressions  will be modified by later ones!
  20. #TimeToReadIrishPlay

 Chris Morash



Did you know there are 3 types of  theater spaces?

Arena – audience surrounds the actors


Thrust – audience is positioned on 3 sides of the stage ( Ancient Greece)


Proscenium –  the arc of the stage seperates  the actors from the audience


The Abbey Theatre  Dublin:

  1. The theatre first opened its doors to the public
  2. …over a hundred years ago, back in 1904.
  3. The original building was damaged by fire in 1951 and
  4. the Abbey had to be re-located but still remained active.
  5. The theatre offers a unique sound experience
  6. due to its wooden pallets, which are
  7. not obtainable anymore and can only be
  8. found in a few remaining locations worldwide.
  9. The Abbey holds 394 seats, that all share the same view.
  10. The idea was to get rid of the social hierarchy and
  11. guarantee every audience member the same experience.


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Louise
    Mar 10 2018

    I’m just catching up with your reading after a 2 month hiatus (special, all consuming project).
    Interesting focus on Ireland. I’ll be browsing backward.


    • Mar 10 2018

      Good hear from you…. indeed, I’m discovering many writers that deserve attention! Before reading some on the above mentioned plays I wanted to learn some backround info.



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