Contemporary Irish Plays

Edited by Patrick Lonergan
Methuen Drama

Contemporary Irish Plays

The Irish collection in the Methuen Contemporary Plays series, edited and introduced by Patrick Lonergan, includes pieces set both north and south of the border.

The editor’s intention is to encapsulate the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger through some of the plays that have graced Irish stages during the last decade or so.

Freefall by Michael West

Freefall presents a sad but much-covered topic in a fresh and inventive fashion.

Its dual subjects are everyday life and that ever-present but often ignored corollary, death.

The protagonist is merely known as A. He spends the whole of the play lying on a hospital bed in mortal danger.

The ball description only tells part of the tale since the audience is able to share his inner mental life through a number of novel stylistic techniques.

Michael West cleverly builds up a portrait of a comatose man and those around him, showing glimpses of a happy, earlier life, his current trials, tribulations and joys plus the reactions of those surrounding him both during and before his illness.

Forgotten by Pat Kinevane

This solo is set in an old people’s home filled with inhabitants who are all in the 80 plus category.

They quirkily portray a somewhat drab existence and contrast this with the generally happy, long lost days of their pomp. Indeed, some of them have certainly enjoyed colourful lives that those of the current generation would struggle to imagine in their elders.

The speeches rejoice in Irish intonations and at times will almost inevitably remind readers of Beckett.

Drum Belly by Richard Dormer

The best play in this book is Drum Belly, an exhilarating gangster drama set amongst the Irish-American community in Brooklyn those few days in 1969 when Neil Armstrong monopolised the world’s attention as he prepared to walk on the moon.

Combining the best elements of The Godfather and much of Martin McDonagh’s oeuvre, Richard Dormer has created a grisly black comedy that reads as a great page turner and would undoubtedly be compelling on stage.

It is filled with memorable characters from the Godfather himself, delightfully christened Gulliver Sullivan, to Walter Sorrow a sad butcher, a police chief on the make and the heir to the Sullivan throne.

The story itself involves gangland warfare between the Irish and Italians leading to an ironic ending that would take some beating.

Planet Belfast by Rosemary Jenkinson

Rosemary Jenkinson has written a play set in Belfast combining the political and the personal.

Its central characters are Alice, a Green politician in the Northern Irish parliament and her historian husband Martin.

The piece can seem a little contrived as Alice attempts to achieve her aspiration to conquer the world and turn it green, while Martin struggles to settle into a new job with an unlikely, publicly-funded organisation.

At the same time, they also suffer in their attempts to bear a child, which becomes a cause of great dissension even before the arrival of an old school friend, Claire to spice up proceedings on every front.

Desolate Heaven by Ailís Ní Ríain

Desolate Heaven is a beautiful, sensitive play that follows the fortunes of Orlaith and Sive, young girls aged 13 and 12 respectively who are forced to devote their every moment outside the school day to caring for immobile parents.

Ailís Ní Ríain introduces them to the reader and each other on a cut-priced away day arranged to give them a break from their tortuous lives.

We then get a brief look at the daily grind before the pair escape on a picaresque journey across Ireland with the authorities in not very hot pursuit.

The Boys of Foley Street by Louise Lowe

The book ends with an immersive, site-specific work that seems very slight in published form.

It is one of those dramas that allows a tiny audience to find itself in the middle of a thriller, being rushed around the city centre mixing with the druggy dregs of society.

When this kind of thing works well, it can be enthralling but, as in this case, the script is rarely anything to write home about with most of the attraction lying in the presentation.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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