Skip to main content

Introduction: Towards an Archival Memory—Performance and Archive

  • 153 Accesses


This chapter introduces the theoretical frameworks and constructs of archival memory, the premise that underpins the following chapters and studies within the book. Detail is given to the context to the period in question, from the onset of the 1950s through to the end of the 1970s, which is characterised as being years of modernisation, in terms of political and social change. This is mirrored with a study of the characteristics of the modernisation of Irish drama, theatre and performance within the same period. These facets form the basis through which archival memory is applied to the study and understanding of the marginalised histories of modern Irish drama. Methodologies of memory study are positioned within a performance studies framework, where the ‘present absence’ of the archive affords an opportunity to reassess and challenge canon formation and present historiography of modern Irish drama and of the modern Irish State.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-74548-6_1
  • Chapter length: 26 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-74548-6
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 1.1


  1. 1.

    No information can be traced as to the origins or membership of the Demona Players amateur theatre group.

  2. 2.

    ‘Protest outside Dublin Theatre’, Cork Examiner, 30 April 1970, 20.

  3. 3.

    Frank Dermody joined the Abbey Theatre in 1939, replacing Louis D’Alton, who had recently stepped down from the Board of Directors. Dermody directed, designed and acted in many plays at the Abbey Theatre over his association of close to forty years. Dermody directed three further plays at the Peacock Theatre, the space reserved for experimental work, following his production of The Far Off Hills in 1970. These plays included Grogan and the Ferret by George Shiels (1970), In The Shadow of the Gunman by Sean O’Casey (1973), and Coats by Lady Augusta Gregory (1973), plays which premièred at the Abbey Theatre in 1933, 1923 and 1910, respectively.

  4. 4.

    ‘Performance Outweighs Protest’, Irish Times, 1 May 1970, 10.

  5. 5.

    ‘Theatre Picketed for Failure to Experiment’, Irish Times, 30 April 1970, 10.

  6. 6.

    P103/536 (3-4) Letter from Brian Friel to Thomas Kilroy, 5 May [1976], Thomas Kilroy Archive, NUI Galway. The ‘we’ that Friel here mentions includes Thomas Kilroy, Tom Murphy and Tom MacIntyre.

  7. 7.

    Christopher Murray, Twentieth Century Irish Drama: Mirror Up to the Nation (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), 164.

  8. 8.

    Nicholas Grene, The Politics of Irish Drama: Plays in Context from Boucicault to Friel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 194.

  9. 9.

    Erin Grogan, “‘We Belong to the World’: Christine Longford’s War Plays During Irish Neutrality”, Cultural Convergence: The Dublin Gate Theatre 1928–1960, Ondřej Pilný, Ruud van den Beuken, Ian R. Walsh, eds. (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 217.

  10. 10.

    Barry Houlihan and Melissa Sihra, Why Lady Gregory Is One of Ireland’s Greatest Cultural Figures, RTÉ Brainstorm, 20 May 2020. Accessed 17 September 2020.

  11. 11.

    Doireann Ní Gríofa, A Ghost in the Throat (Dublin: Tramp Press, 2020), 243.

  12. 12.

    Melissa Sihra, Marina Carr: Pastures of the Unknown (Gewerbestrasse: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 19.

  13. 13.

    Fulle, Henning, in Manfred Brauneck and ITI Germany, eds. “A Theatre for Postmodernity in Western European Theatrescapes”, Independent Theatre in Contemporary Europe Structures—Aesthetics—Cultural Policy, Theatre Studies, Volume 80. 2017, transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, Germany. 281.

  14. 14.


  15. 15.

    Susanne Colleary, “Long Flame in the Hideous Gale: The Politics of Irish Popular Performance 1950–2000”, in The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Irish Performance. eds., Eamonn Jordan and Eric Weitz (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 201–219.

  16. 16.

    Elizabeth Howard, “Performance in the Community: Amateur Drama and Community Theatre, in in The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Irish Performance. eds., Eamonn Jordan and Eric Weitz (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 165–180.

  17. 17.

    Christopher Murray, “O’Casey and the City”, The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Theatre, Nicholas Grene and Chris Morash eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 183–1984.

  18. 18.

    Letter from Cyril Cusack, Dalkey, to Sean O’Casey, 28 April 1954, Sean O’Casey papers, National Library of Ireland, MS 38,060/1.

  19. 19.

    Letter from Cyril Cusack, Dalkey, to Sean O’Casey, 5 May 1954, Sean O’Casey papers, National Library of Ireland, MS 38,060/1.

  20. 20.

    Letter from Sean O’Casey to Thomas Buggy, 6 April 1963, Sean O’Casey papers, National Library of Ireland, MS37, 933.

  21. 21.

    W.B. Yeats, The Lake Isle of Inis Free, The Poetry Foundation, Accessed 14 March 2021.

  22. 22.

    Roland Jaquarello, Memories of Development: My Time in Irish Theatre and Broadcasting (Dublin: Liffey Press, 2016), 30.

  23. 23.

    Andreas Huyssen, Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia (London: Routledge, 1995), 3.

  24. 24.

    Jim Davis, Katie Normington and Gilli Bush-Bailey with Jacky Bratton, in Research Methods in Theatre and Performance, eds., Baz Kershaw and Helen Nicholson (Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2011), 89.

  25. 25.

    Davis et al. (2011, 91).

  26. 26.

    Diana Taylor, The Archive and The Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 20.

  27. 27.

    Maggie B. Gale, ‘The Imperative of the Archive: Creative Archive Research’, in Research Methods in Theatre and Performance, Kershaw and Nicholson, eds. (Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2011), 17.

  28. 28.

    Clare Cochrane and Jo Robinson, eds., Theatre History and Historiography: Ethics, Evidence and Truth (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

  29. 29.

    Sasha Handley, Rohan McWilliam and Lucy Noakes, New Directions in Social and Cultural History (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), 12–13.

  30. 30.

    Cochrane and Robinson, eds. (2016, 4).

  31. 31.

    Ric Knowles, How Theatre Means (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

  32. 32.

    David Dean, Yana Meerson, and Kathryn Prince, History, Memory, Performance (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015), 1.

  33. 33.

    Diana Taylor, xvii.

  34. 34.

    Barbara A. Misztal, Theories of Social Remembering (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2003).

  35. 35.

    Ibid., 1.

  36. 36.

    Katherine Newey, “Feminist Historiography and Ethics”, in Theatre History and Historiography: Ethics, Evidence and Truth, eds., Clare Cochrane and Jo Robinson (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 88.

  37. 37.

    Miriam Haughton, Staging Trauma: Bodies in Shadow (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 3.

  38. 38.

    Baz Kershaw, The Politics of Performance: Radical Theatre as Cultural Intervention (London: Routledge, 1992), 1.

  39. 39.


  40. 40.

    Sue-Ellen Case and Janelle Reinelt, The Performance of Power (Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1991).

  41. 41.

    Case and Reinelt, 1.

  42. 42.

    Bruce A. McConachie, “New Historicism and American Theatre History: Towards and Interdisciplinary Paradigm for Scholarship”, in The Performance of Power, eds., Sue-Ellen Case and Janelle Reinelt (Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1991), 267.

  43. 43.

    Kershaw, 5.

  44. 44.

    Rebellato (1999, 8).

  45. 45.

    Rebellato (1999, 28–33).

  46. 46.

    Rebellato (1999, 74).

  47. 47.

    Phyllis Ryan (27 July 1920–6 June 2011) Actor, producer, director. Ryan founded Orion Productions (1956) and later Gemini Productions (1959). In the 1970s, Ryan was appointed Artistic Director of the Irish Theatre Company with whom she produced many works. Ryan first starred on the Abbey Theatre stage in W.B. Yeats’ play The Land of Heart’s Desire, in 1936, with later notable roles, including Blanaid in Denis Johnston’s The Moon in the Yellow River and the role of Annie Keegan in Teresa Deevy’s 1939 play The King of Spain’s Daughter. As well as producing many new Irish plays during her career, from the 1960s to the 1990s, including many international works at venues like the Eblana Theatre, Dublin, Ryan maintained close working relationships with writers such as John B. Keane and Hugh Leonard. Ryan was also a Board member of the Abbey Theatre and was founding patron of the Irish Theatre Institute, Dublin.

  48. 48.

    “Limerick Plans Second National Theatre”, Irish Times, 30 January 1970, 5.

  49. 49.

    “Limerick Plans Second National Theatre”, Irish Times, 30 January 1970, 5.

  50. 50.

    Limerick’s City Theatre opened on 18 January 1953. Variety star Frank O’Donovan was the theatre’s first manager. Lorcan Bourke was founding General Manager of the City Theatre. Bourke converted the theatre from its previous existence as the former Ritz Cinema on Sexton Street in the city and had capacity for 600 seats. The theatre operated until it and its contents sold at auction in April 1976.

  51. 51.

    “Mayor praises Gemini group”, Irish Times, 12 August 1970, 5.

  52. 52.

    Margaretta D’Arcy was born in London on 14 June 1934. D’Arcy is an actor, playwright and activist. In 1947, D’Arcy married British playwright, John Arden. Through D’Arcy’s own work and in collaboration with Arden, D’Arcy became a well-known fixture in London and British theatre in the 1950s. The couple moved to Galway and founded the Galway Actors Workshop in 1976. D’Arcy is a member of Aosdána and remains active in numerous activist campaigns in Ireland.

  53. 53.

    John Arden, Margaretta D’Arcy, Awkward Corners: Essays, Papers, Fragments Selected with Commentaries, by the Authors (London: Methuen Drama, 1988), 121.

  54. 54.

    Arden, D’Arcy (1988, 146–147).

  55. 55.

    Lelia Doolan was born in Cork in 1934. She studied French and German at University College Dublin before completing a PhD in Anthropology from Queen’s University, Belfast. Doolan joined RTÉ in 1961 and became central in production and direction. Doolan was appointed Chair of the Irish Film Board in 1993 and was also a founder of the Galway Film Fleadh.

  56. 56.

    Elspeth Probyn, Sexing the Self: Gendered Positions in Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 1994), 87.

  57. 57.

    Tricia O’Beirne has examined the gender-based discrimination in pay and contracts at the Abbey Theatre between its foundation in 1904 and the end of the 1930s in her paper “‘In a Position to Be Treated Roughly’: F. R. Higgins in the Abbey Theatre Minute Books”, New Hibernia Review, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2018, 120–134.

  58. 58.

    Genevieve Lyons was a Dublin-born actor (1930–2018) who was a founding member of the Globe Theatre Company. While a highly talented actor, media comments frequently commented on her physical appearance in terms such as “blonde starlet” or “blonde bombshell”. For more on Lyons’ career see Barry Houlihan, “How one of the world’s biggest musicals found its star in Dublin”, RTÉ Brainstorm, 8 January 2021, Accessed 10 January 2021.

  59. 59.

    Probyn (1994, 91).

  60. 60.

    Lisa Fitzpatrick, “The Powerful Role of the Mother in Irish Culture”. 27 August 2018. Accessed 27 August 2018.

  61. 61.

    Sue-Ellen Case, Feminism and Theatre (London: Routledge, 1988).

  62. 62.

    Jill Dolan, The Feminist Spectator as Critic (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1988).

  63. 63.

    Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London: Routledge, 1992).

  64. 64.

    Kim Solga, Theatre and Feminism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), p. 27.

  65. 65.

    Solga (2016, 26).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Barry Houlihan .

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Houlihan, B. (2021). Introduction: Towards an Archival Memory—Performance and Archive. In: Theatre and Archival Memory. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Download citation