The English Question; Night & Day

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), November 30, 1997 | Go to article overview

The English Question; Night & Day


Byline: GEORGINA BROWN

Mutabilitie National Theatre, London Director: Trevor Nunn Starring: Anton Lesser, Patrick Malahide

Running time: 3 hrs**

Scissor Happy Duchess Theatre, London Director: Neil Mullarkey Starring: Lee Simpson, Nicola Stapleton Running time: 2 hrs***

There are occasions when a play is so long in the making that the plot is lost in the mists of time, or, in the case of Mutabilitie, lost in the mists and swallowed by the bogs of Ireland. Frank McGuinness, the great Irish playwright, has sweated over this play for more than a decade, fretting and fiddling because its subjects - what it means to be Irish, the roots of the war between England and Ireland, the work of Spenser and Shakespeare (McGuinness lectures on Eng Lit) - lie so close to his heart.

Every new work by McGuinness determinedly carves out its own unique dramatic territory and Mutabilitie is a rich, strange, ultimately misconceived concoction. It's an ambitious mingling of fantasy, history, literature, music, characters and culture from both countries across several centuries.

It is set in Ireland in the 16th Century, in and around Kilcolman Castle where the English Elizabethan poet and civil servant Edmund Spenser wrote the `Mutabilitie Cantos' from which the play takes its title. Spenser, a gentle, idealistic poet devoted to the great Queen Elizabeth, is nevertheless tormented by the poverty of the Irish people whose lands have been stolen by the English.

The other jewel in the English crown, Shakespeare no less, a freewheeling fortune-hunter visiting Ireland because he's heard that it has no theatre and so is ripe for a dramatic cultural attack, turns up, drunk and almost dead.

Spenser rescues him from the marauding Gaelic chieftains (raggedly regal, semi-mythical creatures who might have wandered off the set of Cymbeline or King Lear). With the help of his servant, File, a scowling pre-Raphaelite sprite who is also the local Gaelic poetess, Shakespeare is nursed back to eloquent health.

In this imagined meeting between Spenser (Patrick Malahide), Shakespeare (Anton Lesser) and File (Aisling O' Sullivan), the cultures and beliefs which sustain the war are once again aired. But artists, it seems, are as important as politicians. McGuinness's point, presumably, is that 400 years later, the prejudice and injustice continues, and change seems even more remote.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The English Question; Night & Day
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.