Acting between the Lines: The Field Day Theatre Company and Irish Cultural Politics, 1980-1984

Acting between the Lines: The Field Day Theatre Company and Irish Cultural Politics, 1980-1984

Acting between the Lines: The Field Day Theatre Company and Irish Cultural Politics, 1980-1984

Acting between the Lines: The Field Day Theatre Company and Irish Cultural Politics, 1980-1984

Synopsis

Since its creation in 1980 by actor Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) and playwright Brian Friel (Translation, Dancing at Lughnasa), Northern Ireland's Field Day Theatre Company has brought challenging drama to the entire island, "from Coleraine to Kerry." With the addition to the board of directors of poets and critics such as Tom Paulin, Seamus Heaney, and Seamus Deane, Field Day ventured into the realm of the more explicitly political with a controversial pamphlet series. Acting Between the Lines is a fascinating study of one of the most important developments in contemporary Irish culture.

Excerpt

The seal of the city of Derry features, in addition to the red cross on a white background which commemorates its association with the city of London, a tower and a grinning skeleton. This symbolizes that Derry is a walled city that rose 'from the dead'. the visitor soon learns, however, that there are other stories told about the seal, including one about an avaricious Norman lord who was locked in the fortress by his relatives and left to starve to death. Like so many other fragments of Irish history, this legend strikes a resonant chord with events of more recent years in Northern Ireland where, over the past twenty-five years, civil division has yet again manifested itself in violence. Full of modern significance, too, is the grim joke locals tell about the grisly emblem. 'What we say,' the guard at the Guildhall explains, 'is that's a Derry man waiting for a job.'

The Field Day Theatre Company, based in Derry and founded in 1980 by the playwright Brian Friel and the actor Stephen Rea, has consistently concerned itself with the relationship between myth and present-day perception, history and politics. Over the last fourteen years Field Day has become such an established and important part of the cultural scene in Ireland that it is difficult now to recapture the sense of surprise that greeted Friel's announcement of his plans to take on the management side of theatre.

Considered by many to be Ireland's most important living playwright, Brian Friel was brought up in Derry and nearby Donegal and in 1980 lived just across the border from the city. the Field Day enterprise (which took its name, in part, from a certain linguistic affinity with 'Friel' and 'Rea') owed its existence to a convergence of circumstances. Rea, who had grown up in Belfast, had met Friel some years before during an English production of Friel The Freedom of the City. His decision to approach Friel with the idea of touring an Irish play came out of a growing frustration with . . .

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