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"Not Always, But Often": Introduction to a Special Issue on Radical Theatre and Ireland

Victor Merriman


This article sketches Irish history and how Irish nationalism deployed cultural production – including radical theatre – as a means of asserting itself as a political and moral force. “Radical Theatre” prompts questions around what both Baz Kershaw and Herbert Blau refer to as “efficacy,” insofar as it implies engagements with content, form, and audiences outside of those which characterise accepted, dominant or commercial manifestations of theatre practice. And yet, scholars and practitioners of radical theatre confront the slipperiness of the concept of radical theatre: it shifts emphasis between theatre as cultural intervention for social progress (a critical, subversive, ethical vocation), and theatre as aesthetic invention (privileging formal experimentation). Also, the radical gesture itself is always at risk of compromise and co-option to that which it seeks to critique. To be efficacious, radical cultural work must inevitably confront the state, and will have to come to terms with, and produce, a narrative of the past. All of these characteristics problematise the practice and understanding of radical theatre in Ireland.



1916 Rising, Irish theatre, nationalism, radical

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/1462