In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, Richard Ouzounian at the Toronto Star decided to draw up a list of his Top Ten Irish playwrights:
[A]s far as I'm concerned, the best thing that Ireland has done (and continues to do) is to provide the theatre with a constant stream of inventive and provocative playwrights.
No one seems to know what makes it happen. Some claim it's the weather, others insist it's the whiskey.
But if one of the major qualities that a good stage writer needs is the ability to create sparkling dialogue, then the legendary "gift of the gab" that comes with an Irish heritage must surely be part and parcel of the deal.
Well... I would make some sort of comment about Irish stereotyping, but there are worse things that having people think that your nationality is possessed of special powers...
Anyway, Ouzounian's list is predictable: Richard Binsley Sheridan, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, John Middleton Synge, Sean O'Casey, Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Brian Friel, Martin McDonagh. All great playwrights, of course, but all but Friel and McDonagh are dead. (And McDonagh was born and raised in England.)
So, in the interest of pointing out that Irish writing is still alive and well, here are a few other contemporaries:
-- Marina Carr. Carr is the only one who I am certain will be on the lists of future Ouzounians. Among her plays: The Mai (1994), Portia Coughlan (1996), which is being remounted at The Abbey in Dublin this year, and by the Bog of the Cats (1998), an awesome retelling of Medea in a small Irish town.
-- Marie Jones. This Belfast-born playwright is really hot in Montreal right now where two of her plays are playing this month: A French translation of the two-hander Stones in his Pockets (until the 27th at Rideau Vert), and the one-man show A Night in November (opening at the Saidye Bronfman Centre this week ), a funny piece about a World Cup qualifying match between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
-- Hilary Fannin. I haven't actually read or seen any of Fannin's plays, but everyone in Dublin said I should. She's only written two so far: Doldrum Bay and Mackeral Sky. And she co-wrote a play with Mark Ravenhill (of Shopping and Fucking fame) called Sleeping Around.
Others of note: Frank McGuinness (Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme), Tom Murphy (saw his adaptation of The Cherry Orchard)...