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The Pike Theatre and Intercultural Ireland

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Abstract

From the early 1950s, there is noticeable shift towards corporal expression and representation which challenges dramatic norms within Irish drama. On stages such as the Pike Theatre, post-colonial elements of formal and received expression and communication of identity were challenged through a range of multi-faceted performance styles. This was evident in particular within the physical presence of the actor, the embodied memory of colonial/post-colonial identity of cast members and performance reception. The Ireland of the mid-1950s portrayed at the Pike Theatre by directors Carolyn Swift and Alan Simpson was one of complex societal flux, blending European and American dramaturgical influences with innovative performance styles. It also reflected an Irish society that was changing in terms of its demographic composition and internationalisation afforded by cultural influences of imported popular culture growing intercultural tourism and exchange. This chapter presents a detailed study of the late-night Follies at the Pike Theatre and their intercultural commentary and critique upon modern Ireland. Through staging ‘Caribbean and Calypso Ceílís’ and through blending traditional Irish music, culture and artists with performers from the Caribbean and of the ‘Windrush Generation’ of Great Britain, these recovered performances reveal a neglected record of Irish theatrical and national memory and identity formation in performance.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-74548-6_4
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Colin Murphy, “The Pornographer who invented Wanderly Wagon”, Magill, 15 June 2007. https://magill.ie/archive/pornographer-who-invented-wanderley-wagon, Accessed 16 July 2020.

  2. 2.

    Cassin also listed some key plays which influenced the 37 Club and which they produced: “I remember Leonarda by Bjórnstjerne Bjórnson, The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash, A Man with a Load of Mischief by Clemence Dane and Love on the Dole by Walter Greenwood and Ronald Gow, a play that dealt with trapped lives in industrial England. A number of interesting one-acts included Portrait of a Madonna by Tennessee Williams, in which Nora gave a performance of poignant sensitivity” Cassin, 2012, 68.

  3. 3.

    Siobhán O’Gorman, “Scenographic Interactions: 1950s’ Ireland and Dublin’s Pike Theatre”, Irish Theatre International 3.1 (2014). 13.

  4. 4.

    Sara Brady and Fintan Walsh, eds. Cross Roads: Performance studies and Irish Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 4–8.

  5. 5.

    Bernadette Sweeney, “Performing Tradition”, in Sara Brady and Fintan Walsh, eds. Cross Roads: Performance studies and Irish Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 21.

  6. 6.

    Helen Thomas, The Body, Dance and Cultural Theory (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 26.

  7. 7.

    Thomas, 26.

  8. 8.

    Thomas, 150.

  9. 9.

    Empire News, 21 December 1958. 10813/388 Scrapbook, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Library, Dublin.

  10. 10.

    Irish Independent, 27 December 1958. 10813/388 Scrapbook, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Library, Dublin. Further examples of comments upon racial concerns in Dublin society at this time was seen in an early draft, c. mid-1960s, of The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche by Thomas Kilroy (produced in 1968, Olympia Theatre) In a draft titled Where Are My Neighbours, Kilroy writes:

    Kelly::

    “I still think you should have let in those African boys. Add a bit of colour to the furniture.

    Missus::

    Their ways are not our ways.

    Kelly::

    Amen!

    Missus::

    … What would the girls upstairs say if they had black foreigners on their doorstep?

    Kelly::

    (Mocking gesture) Save them! Isn’t it your Christian confraternity duty? Let not the innocence of Irish womanhood be stained by contamination. Keep it colourless at all costs.” (P103/57 Thomas Kilroy Archive, JHL, NUI Galway)

  11. 11.

    Charlotte McIvor, Migration and Performance in Contemporary Ireland: Towards a New Interculturalism Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 8.

  12. 12.

    Carolyn Swift, Stage by Stage (Dublin: Poolbeg Press, 1985), 227.

  13. 13.

    Swift (1985, 22).

  14. 14.

    Swift (1985, 227–228).

  15. 15.

    O’Gorman (2014, 14).

  16. 16.

    Swift (1985, 229).

  17. 17.

    Swift (1985, 230).

  18. 18.

    Swift (1985, 233).

  19. 19.

    Swift (1985, 235).

  20. 20.

    Swift (1985, 237).

  21. 21.

    Swift (1985, 237).

  22. 22.

    While Swift was the driving force behind the Follies as a concept, there were contributions from various other people and cast members at the Pike, including Alan Simpson. Swift states in her memoir: “I believe the variety achieved by having so many contributors was what made this revue our most successful and that ideally no revue should be written by one person, no matter how talented” (Swift 1985, 231).

  23. 23.

    https://www.idaireland.com/about-ida/history, Accessed 29 October 2017.

  24. 24.

    Irish Coffee, starring Othmar Arthur sings calypsos”, Evening Mail, 1 August 1958. 10813/388 Scrapbook of Press Cuttings, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Dublin. It starred Noel Lynch, Harry O’Reilly, Seamus Dunne, May Ollis (who sang ballads by Donagh McDonagh) and John Dowdall on accordion.

  25. 25.

    Sweeney (2009, 31).

  26. 26.

    Irish Press, 11 August 1958, 10813/388, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Dublin.

  27. 27.

    Evening Herald, 2 August 1958, 10813/388, Scrapbook of Press Cuttings, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Dublin.

  28. 28.

    The description of Othmar Remy Arthur by elements of the Irish media, such as the Evening Mail, as a “coloured singer” reveals the racist undertones still present within Irish society of this period.

  29. 29.

    Evening Mail, 2 August 1958, 10813/388 Scrapbook of Press Cuttings, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Dublin.

  30. 30.

    Irish Independent, 5 August 1958, 10813/388, Scrapbook of Press Cuttings, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Dublin.

  31. 31.

    10813/388 Scrapbook of Press Cuttings, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Dublin. Evening Press, 6 August 1958.

  32. 32.

    The Stage, “Gaelic Coffee” 31 July 1958, 10813/388, Scrap Book, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Dublin.

  33. 33.

    In Chap. 4 of this thesis, I note that Alan Simpson wrote to theatre manager Louis Elliman seeking to apply on behalf of himself and Swift for any openings in Elliman’s new film company, 1962.

  34. 34.

    Irish Independent, 16 December 1958, 10813/388, Scrap Book, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Dublin.

  35. 35.

    Amanda Bidnell, West Indian Interventions at the Heart of the Cultural Establishment: Edric Connor, Pearl Connor, and the BBC, Twentieth Century British History, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2013, 58–83. https://doi.org/10.1093/tcbh/hwr06.

  36. 36.

    Bidnell, 68.

  37. 37.

    Irish Independent, 16 December 1958, 10813/388, Scrap Book, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Dublin.

  38. 38.

    Kathleen A. Spanos, “Dancing the Archive: Rhythms of Change in Montserrat’s Masquerades”, Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 49, 2017. 72.

  39. 39.

    Charlotte Taylor, “Representing the Windrush Generation: Metaphor in Discourses Then and Now, Critical Discourse Studies, 17:1, 2020. 6–7.

  40. 40.

    “Pike Revue Aids Export Trade”, Irish Times, 14 January 1959. 10813/388 Scrapbook, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Library, Dublin.

  41. 41.

    Irish Times, 27 January 1959. 10813/388 Scrapbook, Pike Theatre Papers, Trinity College Library, Dublin.

  42. 42.

    Simpson (1962, 14–15).

  43. 43.

    Patrick Lonergan, Theatre and Globalisation: Irish Theatre in the Celtic Drama Era (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 21.

  44. 44.

    Phillip Ollerenshaw, “Business and Industry”, in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish History, ed. Alvin Jackson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 162–163.

  45. 45.

    The Pike Theatre artistic manifesto, published in the programme of the production of G.K. Chesterton’s The Surprise, stated that “our policy is to present plays of all countries on all subjects, written from whatever viewpoint, provided they be of interest and be dramatically satisfying. As our theatre is a small, intimate one, we intend to avail of the opportunities afforded to stage productions which, for various reasons, would not be seen on either the larger or smaller commercial stages, and we hope to give theatregoers opportunities to see more of the struggle going on at present in the world of theatre to introduce new techniques and new subjects in play writing. On the lighter side, we intend presenting late-night, intimate revue during Christmas and other holidays” (Swift 1973, 105).

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Houlihan, B. (2021). The Pike Theatre and Intercultural Ireland. In: Theatre and Archival Memory. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74548-6_4

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