Page extent: 256
ISBN: 9781783190355
Binding: PaperBack

That Was Us: Contemporary Irish Theatre and Performance

Fintan Walsh, Ed.


In the wake of Ireland’s recent economic rise, fall, and associated social crises, theatre and performance have played vital roles in reflecting on the past, engaging the present, and imagining possible futures.

That Was Us features a wide, rich range of critical essays and artist reflections that strive to make sense of some of the most significant shifts and trends in contemporary Irish theatre and  performance. 

Focusing on artists connected to the Dublin Theatre Festival, the book addresses work by the Abbey Theatre, ANU Productions, Brokentalkers, The Corn Exchange, Druid, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, the Gate Theatre, Landmark Productions, Rough Magic Theatre Company, THEATREclub, Theatre Lovett, Pan Pan, The Stomach Box and THISISPOPBABY, among others. 

Some of the burgeoning forms and practices discussed include: site-specific and site-responsive theatre; testimonial, documentary, and biographical performance; dance theatre; theatre for children and families; new writing; and fresh takes on canonical writing staged at home or toured internationally.

In bringing together critics and artists to think side by side, That Was Us is indispensable for anyone interested in contemporary practices and cultural politics. 


1. The Power of the Powerless: Theatre in Turbulent Times by Fintan Walsh

ONE: Theatres of Testimony

2. ANU Productions and Site-Specific Performance: The Politics of Space and Place by Brian Singleton

3. Witnessing the (Broken) Nation: Theatre of the Real and Social Fragmentation in Brokentalkers’ Silver Stars, The Blue Boy, and Have I No Mouth by Charlotte McIvor

4. You Had to be There by Louise Lowe

TWO: Auto/Biographical Performance

5. Making Space: Female-Authored Queer Performance in Irish Theatre by Oonagh Murphy

6. The Writing Life by Helen Meany

7. Metaphysicians of Unnatural Chaos: Memories of Genesi by Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio by Dylan Tighe

THREE: Bodies Out of Bounds

8. Insider and Outsider: Michael Keegan-Dolan in the Irish Dance Landscape by Michael Seaver

9. And the Adults Came Too! Dublin Theatre Festival and the Development of Irish Children’s Theatre by Eimear Beardmore

10. Living Inspiration by John Scott

FOUR: Placing Performance

11. Representations of Working-Class Dublin at the Dublin Theatre Festival by James Hickson

12. ‘Getting Known’: Beckett, Ireland, and the Creative Industries by Trish McTighe

13. The Art of Perspective by Michael West

FIVE: Touring Performances

14. Druid Cycles: The Rewards of Marathon Productions by Tanya Dean

15. Staging the National in an International Context: Druid at the Dublin Theatre Festival by Sara Keating

16. Viewed from Afar: Contemporary Irish Theatre on the World’s Stages by Peter Crawley

17. A Dance You Associate With Your Family by Gary Keegan

Additional Information

ISBN13 9781783190355
Binding PaperBack
Page Extent 256


‘An intelligent, occasionally emotional dissection of what its editor Fintan Walsh pointedly describes as “theatre and performance in a time of crisis”.  It’s a timely compendium of critical essays and recollections by those on the creative front line of a sector confronting profound economic, political and social change. It also proves to be spine-stiffening testimony to theatre’s ability to engage with the here and now... highly recommended’  The Stage

'The collection aims for – and achieves – great breadth. It features seventeen chapters from scholars and practitioners on subjects ranging from socially engaged theatre such as that of ANU Productions and Brokentalkers, to children’s theatre, to ‘bio-plays’ that have taken literary figures as their protagonists, to the touring productions of Druid Theatre Company... the collection succeeds in demonstrating "the ongoing role theatre and performance have to play in exploring questions of identity, responsibility, and civic participation". While O’Toole might lament the absence of a ‘power play’ in contemporary Ireland, Walsh and his contributors show that Irish theatre and performance have responded in diverse and often provocative ways to the challenges of living in contemporary Ireland. Dr Sinéad Moynihan (University of Exeter)

'The book makes its most important intervention in its engagement with forms that “don’t depend upon written play texts or the production of illusion, but rather make performances about real people, places, and events” (5). Companies employing different combinations of co-created, improvised, physical, documentary, site-responsive, and participatory practices have recently risen to prominence in Ireland. The proliferation of practices that privilege performance making over pre-existing scripts (many of which have a longer – though relatively marginalized – history in Ireland) has made the issue of documenting performance all the more pressing.' Modern Drama

'“That Was Us” is an important contribution to growing and vital conversations in the field of Irish theatre studies. Commissioned by DTF, and focusing mainly on Irish performances connected to that festival, it ... may prompt more inclusive discussions and deeper historicizations of theatre practices less mediated by conventional institutional hierarchies – practices that are currently proliferating throughout Ireland.' Siobhán O’Gorman (Trinity College, The University of Dublin)