Theatre stuff: critical essays on contemporary Irish theatre edited by Eamonn Jordan (Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2000)
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Lonergan, Patrick. (2003). Theatre stuff: critical essays on contemporary Irish theatre edited by Eamonn Jordan (Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2000). Nua: Studies in Contemporary Irish Writing, Summer 4 (1).
Optimism about contemporary Irish drama seems to have diminished recently. At the 2001 Irish Times/ESB Theatre Awards, a member of the judging panel lamented the scarcity of new Irish plays, stating that he wanted to describe 2001 as a good year for Irish theatre – but couldn’t. Media reports on Irish theatre enhance this sense of gloom: the Abbey has lurched from controversy over its production of Barbaric Comedies to criticism of its proposal to relocate to Dublin’s docklands; the Gate has publicly disagreed with the Arts Council over its funding; and despite its international success, Galway audiences are reportedly frustrated by what they perceive to be Druid Theatre’s irrelevance to them. What makes this apparent negativity difficult to understand is that, as recently as 1999, many commentators were declaring that Irish theatre had entered a new golden age, and that a second renaissance had been signaled by the emergence of plays like The Steward of Christendom, Portia Coughlan, and The Weir. As reports of the demise of the Celtic Tiger illustrate, this sudden shift from celebration to despondency is not exclusive to commentary on Irish theatre – and perhaps what is most evident in such reports is the Irish media’s tendency to exaggerate. The value of Theatre Stuff, an excellent collection of essays from Carysfort Press, is that it brings clear-headed analysis to a debate that has hitherto been dominated by marketing and excessively exuberant journalism.
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