Women seen and unseen: the dramaturgy of character, space and place in three adaptations for the Irish stage 2014-2019

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Acton-Carey, Maxine
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University College Cork
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Through an analysis of the dramaturgy of character, space and place in three plays adapted by women since the financial crash in 2008, this thesis argues the case for recognition of a new epoch of female character representation on the Irish stage in line with changes signalled in wider cultural and societal contexts. To do so, this research will look at the texts and performances of three adaptations, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride (adapted by Annie Ryan, Dublin Theatre Festival, 2014), Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (adapted by Meadhbh McHugh with Annabelle Comyn, The Everyman Theatre, Cork, 2018) and The Country Girls (adapted by Edna O’Brien in collaboration with Graham McLaren, The Abbey Theatre, 2019). During this period, post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, changes in Irish attitudes and in the Irish constitution in relation to women occurred, leading to an increased visibility of women in Irish theatre both on and off the stage. This is the reason this time period has been chosen for this thesis. This analysis explores the dramaturgy of these three adapted plays against the backdrop of specific societal events such as the economic collapse in 2007/8; the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 and the repeal the Eighth Referendum; the Taoiseach’s apologies to the victims of the Magdalene laundries in 2013; the investigation of mother and baby homes; the same sex marriage referendum in 2015; the impact of the #WakingTheFeminists campaign in 2016 and #MeToo in 2017; as well as a number of high profile rape cases and the #IBelieveHer movement. All these events were happening at a time of high social media engagement and this, of course, made access to information and to platforms to express individual opinions easier than ever before. My methodology is to analyse the dramaturgy of the published texts and performances of these three adaptations. In the course of this I will draw on: a) Theories and approaches associated with performance analysis in looking at issues of space and place and how these are represented on the stage. b) Theories and approaches to adaptation and dramaturgy. c) Studies on representation of gender on the Irish stage. d) Interviews with the practitioners involved in bringing the three plays to the stage. In doing so, I aim to expose and explore new paradigms in the dramaturgical shaping of female characters in post-Celtic Tiger Irish theatre. To do this I will be looking specifically at the way in which the dramaturgy of space and place contributes to character representation. This analysis is divided into three chapters, one for each play analysed. The adaptation of literary works is a genre of its own and deserves research specific to it. As Lonergan notes, ‘it is a form of authorship that is different from composing original plays, but which should not be dismissed as inferior to that act’ (Lonergan, 2019, p. 116). Thus, as he points out, the future analysis of Irish stage adaptations offers a means of forming ‘a more capacious understanding of the achievements of Irish theatre during the contemporary period’ (Lonergan, 2019). In exploring the dramaturgy of female characters in the three stage adaptations in this thesis, I aim to shed light on some of these achievements as well as providing evidence of adaptation as a significant form of authorship in Irish theatre.
Dramaturgy , Character , Adaptation , Louise O'Neill , Eimear McBride , Edna O'Brien , The Country Girls , Asking for It , A Girl is a Half-formed Thing , Dramaturgy of character , Space and place , Irish theatre , Gendered theatre , Theatre adaptations , Girlhood trauma , Contemporary Irish theatre , Feminist dramaturgy , Feminist theatre , Victim shaming
Acton-Carey, M. 2021. Women seen and unseen: the dramaturgy of character, space and place in three adaptations for the Irish stage 2014-2019. MRes Thesis, University College Cork.
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