Literature and IT Review

Living Room: an exploration into the meaning of the room in Enda Walsh’s plays.

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Enda Walsh. Image: Alchetron.com

A theatre is a dark room in which an audience sits, often looking into another room inhabited by characters. Neither of these rooms is a home. But inside the world of Walsh’s plays a room is home, albeit a strange, often surreal, one. This thesis will examine the ways in which Walsh uses the room, not only literally as a designed stage-set but also in terms of its relationship with its inhabitant/s.

images-4.jpegIn a sense a room also can be the space inside the skull in which a character’s, or indeed, a playwright’s, brain creates an entire world. Using theories of absurd and postdramatic theatre as well land/scape* in theatre, the plays and their rooms will also be interrogated in terms of their socio/political/historical context.

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Delirium by Enda Walsh

I will be reading all Walsh’s plays but excluding musicals and films. I will also be seeing two of his plays, one, The Same, (2017 Cork Gaol) and the other, Ballyturk (2017 Abbey) in Dublin. I have already seen some of his plays in London including Ballyturk, (2014, National Theatre), Misterman, (2012, National Theatre), Penelope (2011 Hampstead Theatre) Disco Pigs (2011, Young Vic) as well as The Walworth Farce (2007, Traverse) in Edinburgh and in London (2008, National Theatre). In 2016 I saw Gentrification at the Cork Savings Bank. Taking a somewhat cross-disciplinary approach I shall be referring to productions as well as text and using, when I can, images to illustrate my points.

I will be referring to audio and filmed interviews with Enda Walsh: examples include Thomas Conway (4 Nov 2010, Druid website) and Joe Dowling and Fintan O’Toole (25 May 2010, Walker Art Centre). I will also reference a talk Walsh gave to London teachers, which I attended, prior to the première of Penelope. I will look at newspaper interviews, an example being, ‘Everything I’ve written has been about some sort of love and need for calm and peace’ in the Irish Independent (2 Oct 2015). A further interview, with Pat Keirnan, from Corcadorca, which was published in the Irish Examiner (12th Nov 2015), will shed light on Gentrification.

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Two men. Where are they? Who are they? What is this room? What might be behind the walls? Image: National Theatre blog.

From searching databases I have discovered that there is not much published scholarly work on Enda Walsh but I will use The Theatre of Enda Walsh (2015, Eds. Mary P. Caulfield and Ian R. Walsh) and, in particular, five chapters: Jesse Weaver’s ‘Enda Walsh and Space: The Evolution of a Playwright’, Siobhan O’Gorman’s ‘Sculpting the Spaces of Enda Walsh’s Theatre: Sabine Dargent in Conversation’, Audrey McNamara’s ‘Dead Men Talking: Stagnation and Entrapment in Enda Walsh’s Penelope’, Mikel Murfi’s ‘On Directing and Performing in the Theatre of Enda Walsh’ and Michelle C. Paul’s ‘Ballyturk: Theatre and Event’.

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Mikel Murfi and Cillian Murphy in Ballyturk.  Image: Irish Times.

There are articles in drama/theatre and Irish studies journals such as Ondrëy Pilnÿ’s ‘The Grotesque in the plays of Enda Walsh’ (2013) and David Benedict’s ‘High-Octane Ballyturk Bends it Like Beckham’ (2014) although some of these are proving to be rather superficial. I will also be using theatre reviews taken mainly from ‘broadsheet’ papers such as the Irish Examiner, The Irish Times and the Guardian. One such would be Lyn Gardner’s Guardian review of The Walworth Farce (6 Aug 2007) whilst another would be Colette Sheridan’s review of Gentrification (18 Nov 2015) in the Irish Examiner.

There are two theses on Enda Walsh in the UCC library: one is by Jesse Weaver, whose chapter is mentioned above. Weaver’s 2011 thesis ‘Shifting Points: an interrogation of the playwright’s changing roles in Irish Theatre Production’ may not be relevant but the writer is clearly something of an authority on Walsh, and Susan Doyle’s ‘”Blood and the Bandage!”: Influence and Identity in the Theatre of Enda Walsh’ looks intriguing, even if not essential to my work.

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Boole Library, UCC. Image: moorememory.files.wordpress.com

In terms of site-specific or site-responsive theatre, which some of Walsh’s plays are, particularly those produced by Corcadorca, I have found Anne Étienne’s ‘Challenging the Auditorium: Spectatorship(s) in “Off-site” Performances’ (2016) and Cathy Turner’s ‘Palimpsest or Potential Space? Finding a Vocabulary for Site-Specific Performance’ (2004).

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Cork Savings Bank used as performance space for Gentrification.  Image courtesy of Irish Examiner.

Additionally I shall try to place the plays into their temporal context as even though they are not explicitly political plays, the playwright is responding to social mores such as racism and immigration (The Walworth Farce 2006) or economic events such as the 1980s recession and the Celtic Tiger boom (Bedbound 2000).

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The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh.  Image: thewalworthfarce.com

Underpinning all the above might be theory.  I may be examining the form of the plays in terms of Theatre of the Absurd referring to Michael Esslin’s classic text of that name (3rd edition, 2001). Opposing this could be the concept of Postdramatic Theatre, for which I would primarily use Hans-Thies Lehmann’s text (2002) but also Cormac O’Brien’s paper (2016) given at IASIL conference at UCC, which was titled ‘Toward an Irish Postdramatic’. Coming at form from a different direction I might refer to Elinor Fuchs and Una Chaudhuri’s (Eds.) Land/Scape/Theater (2002) a text which brings a ‘spatialized aesthetic’ and cross-disciplinary approach to the study of theatre.

irish-drama-local-and-global-perspectives.jpgSince I have been working my presentation on Enda Walsh I have received some additional suggestions from lecturers in the English Department of UCC. Suggestions include reading Lazarus, even though it is a musical, and various academic texts. One, which sounds interesting, is Northern Irish Poetry and Domestic Space by Adam Hanna. I will be looking at how he handles and organises his ideas. Anne Etienne has suggested some reading, such as Home on the Stage: Domestic Spaces in Modern Drama by Nicholas Grene and even given me an essay of her own.  Other interesting texts that I have found through searching the library catalogue include Experimental Irish Theatre by Ian R Walsh, mentioned above re: the volume of essays on Enda Walsh. It, published in 2010 is a little out-of-date but there are others such as Mapping Irish Theatre: Theories of Space and Place by Chris Morash and Shaun Richards which are more current.

In addition to the above mentioned elements of IT I am hoping to have time to blog my thesis as it develops.

 

* This rendition of landscape as land/scape refers to the title and concept of Fuchs and Chaudhuri’s book.

Works cited

Not required for literature review.

 

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Horrorshow!

Friday_the_13th_(1980)_theatrical_posterTextualities 2016 was literally on Friday 13th.  I had been dreading it since September 2015 when I heard about it being part of the MA – alongside the Wikipedia editing.  So even though it was awful to have to drop out of the MA to return to London for a month in January 2016, at least it was a relief not to have to face these technical challenges.

In 2017 the date was less threatening. Friday 10th.  But when I heard the date it was seared into my brain as if by a hot iron.  Everything in my life became divided into: before the mini-conference and after it.  Because I did know that I would survive it.  I booked tickets for Enda Walsh’s Ballyturk at the Abbey in Dublin for Saturday 11th.  Here are Emilio and Maria     (photo: Josephine Fenton) ready to see the play.

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When the day came I was no longer nervous.  Either I was numb as my nerves could support no more effort or I was as well prepared as I could be and I could do no more.  And I knew that my mate Emilio would be coming to support me.

Also it was just so great seeing everyone ready to go.  Daniel Lynch in a suit is a sight for sore eyes.  And there were some amazingly elegant high heels on display.  Donna was in the room and when she is there I always feel calm.  Annie and Rebecca had my back on technicalities. They were both so kind and so competent.  It would all be cool.

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But the morning was all about other people and their work.  For me the star of the day and of the week was Ellen Reid.  Her activism in support of feminism, and, in particular, Repeal the Eighth is, as I said from my position of chair of her panel, GLORIOUS.  She had told me the previous day that she kept bursting into tears.  I thought of King Lear ‘And let not women’s weapons, water drops/ Stain my man’s cheeks’.  I absolutely do not want Ellen crying, for feminist reasons.  ‘You think I’ll weep?  No I’ll not weep.’

And, of course, on the day there was no sign of tears.  Rather we heard an excellent presentation on Irish women’s protest poetry which linked out to other aspects of marginalisation.  I had been impressed by Ellen’s previous blogs and I was particularly struck by the post showcasing this film.

Unknown.jpegAmong others I also loved Rebecca’s presentation on William Godwin and wanted to get into discussion with her about the play Mary Shelley by Helen Edmundson, a work which investigates Mary’s relationship with her father, Willian Godwin.  The father does not come out of it very well.  Edmundson has done loads of research mainly at the Bodleian Library at Oxford.  But I also wanted Rebecca to know about the wide range of letters and papers from the family that are available at http://www.bodley.ox.ac/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/1500-1900/abinger/abinger.html

Actually the whole day was brilliant although perhaps the most exciting research is that which Lena is doing in terms of German business in Ireland.  Now that is in the real world!

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Siobhán is working on famine roads and I think her thesis will be fascinating.  I am looking forward to reading it.  I saw an earlier iteration of her presentation last semester in Irish Studies – I was auditing a unit. She has done so much work and her delivery, like Annie Curran’s on John Huston, was authoritative.

Unknown.pngSo we got through with nothing worse than a bit of a headache.  And now I will never be frightened of Friday 13th or Friday 10th or Pecha Kucha ever again.

All that is left to do is write the thesis.  Easy Peasy! ???

Works cited

Edmundson, H. Mary Shelley. London: Nick Hern Books. 2012. Print.

Walsh, E. Ballyturk. London: Nick Hern Books. 2014. Print.

 

 

Paddling with Pecha Kucha

images-4.jpegI lived for a full year from first hearing the phrase Pecha Kucha to understanding what it meant.  I thought it was thing for a presentation like emaze or Prezi or PowerPoint.  But it turned out to be a structure or discipline.  20 x 20.

Below is my absolute favourite tips page.  Love my green images?

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snake and robin

In over 35 years of teaching I had never done a slide presentation although I have seen many during training sessions and rarely enjoyed them. Most of my colleagues taught using presentations on whiteboards in every lesson.  I thought it might work well for maths or even history.  But English Literature or Theatre Studies?  Wouldn’t it be a stultifying way to teach? A way that might lead one to repeating the same lesson year-on-year for a completely different cohort of students?  I did show images on the white board.  They were just never an ordered presentation with bullet points.

So Luddite as I am I was not happy about this section of our MA in Irish Writing and Film.  But it has to be done.  I thought I would go for PowerPoint as my partner is a whizz with that.  Of course he had no idea what Pecha Kucha meant either.  When he saw what it was he felt that he had little to offer as it was not to his taste at all.  He prefers to be in control of the timing and to be able to play some appropriate music.  And pause for a few jokes.  And take questions as appropriate.  But he did agree to listen to my practice run.  I don’t think he thought much it. images.png

Advice from lecturers and peers has been that I should tell a story. I like a story. I like  Enda Walsh‘s story.  It is very interesting. He loves to tell it too.  In interview after interview you can find Enda Walsh telling his story.  And it’s more or less the same story every time he tells it.  The same key anecdotes offered up to the listening or reading public.  So there is no problem with a story.  But a story is generally chronological and descriptive – not very academic or analytical.  Nevertheless I will tell the story as it will be nice for people to hear it.

As Enda Walsh is a playwright and works in a visual art form there are lots of images to choose from.  Sadly most of these are close-ups of actors and I was looking for pictures of the entire sets.  I found some on set designers’ websites and on the GIAF website but these were not high resolution. Nevertheless they are in the Pecha Kucha because in spite of the reprographic quality they show the story I want to tell.

As I have boringly repeated to my peers many times, I went to Textualities16 last year.  It was great.  I saw lots of excellent presentations – each was excellent in its own way.  Some were breathtakingly skilful and creative technically, others gave brief but interesting insights into subjects about which I know zilch.  One was just a roller-coaster, delivered-too-fast, hilarious tour-de-force about Being John Malkovich.

My Pecha Kucha is complete.  The slides are chosen and ordered.  The narrative is written.  I forgot to do the storyboard thing but never mind.

Others are beavering away at the online presence and organisational matters.  Thanks to all of them.  Soon the day will come and we will strut our stuff.  Then it will be over.  Bring it on.

There are no works to cite.  Just follow the links.

 

 

Walsh & Wiki

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Enda Walsh rehearsing at the Triskel Arts Centre. Photo: Dan Linehan for the Irish Examiner

As I plan to write my dissertation on the plays of Enda Walsh it seemed obvious to approach his page on Wikipedia for the marathon editing session.  I already knew quite a lot about Walsh’s biography as I have been reading/watching/ listening to interviews that he has done.  And, it seems to me, Walsh loves doing interviews. He loves to talk and he loves to laugh.  Often, even in audio or print you can feel him acting out the stories he tells and if you look at around the 64th minute of the video of him talking to Joe Dowling at the Walker Art Centre you can see him physically communicating his experience of OCD.  He makes it hilarious even though it’s actually a debilitating condition.  In different venues and with different interlocutors Walsh tells the same anecdotes over and over again, many of them relating to his family – he is the youngest of six children – and, to some extent, explaining how his plays originate in family relationships.

I thought that his Wiki page, although detailed in terms of his output, was rather dull.

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Enda Walsh. Photo: Dan Linehan for the Irish Examiner

There was only one image and no picture of Walsh himself.  I got a very recent photo from the Irish Examiner and uploaded it.

I took out the section that says how old he is as that will change when he has his birthday (although I have been unable to verify the exact day and month).  So now you can just see his year of birth (1967) and work out how old he is.  I filled in further detail about his family and education although there is confusion over the name of his daughter: variously recorded as Ada and Ava.  In his play Gentrification Walsh names one of the characters Enda and this character talks about his daughter Ada.  So I reckon that Enda Walsh knows his own daughter’s name. I also learnt how to do links and citations.

All this was practice before the designated session of the Wikipedia Editathon.  So my first screenshot shows work that I had already done during my practice sessions.

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One of the things that I did not like about the Enda Walsh page was the fact that the writer, who was clearly really committed, had listed Walsh’s awards and prizes in the same lines as the names of his works. This made the page look very messy and difficult to read.  Also there were awards mentioned for such things as sound design and actor performance.  I thought the awards shown on Walsh’s page should be his awards only.  So best play or best screenplay or best book (for a musical) or best film etc.  The new section 4 that you can see above in the screenshot is ‘Awards’.  Here is what they look like now:

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I am pleased with this as it is clean-looking and clear.

I put in another new heading which is ‘Themes’.  There is an issue with this I think. Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia and the idea of themes might be a little too interpretative.  To get around this I used only Walsh’s own words.  He is a great one for saying what his plays are about, unlike Beckett or Pinter, but he doesn’t always say the same thing.  I love his sweeping statements which suggest that all his plays are about . . . whatever he says at that moment.  So, even if someone eventually cleans this section off the page I have put in on as I think it is fascinating.  Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 10.19.20.png‘Themes’ becomes the new section 3, pushing ‘Awards’ down to section 5.

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I feel quite guilty about my intervention on Enda Walsh’s page as I deleted some painstaking work done by the previous contributor.  But I do think my work is clearer and better written than theirs.  I left sections 2 and 4 more or less intact although I could not help interfering a bit with tense use, syntax and spelling.  For example, the London theatre  Menier Chocolate Factory was misspelled; once corrected a link could be enabled.

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I found the technicalities of citations, links and screenshots very straightforward.  I also managed to send some rather dull tweets although I am not sure whether I am following enough people or if enough people are following me.  Thank you Annie, Roy and Donna for your ‘likes’.  I am indebted to Donna Alexander and Emilio Bonome-Ares for teaching me how to edit Wikipedia.  They were both very kind and supportive.  Also calm in the face of my panic.

Works cited

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enda_Walsh