On Yeats and Synge.

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We’re very excited to be performing at World Museum Liverpool as part of Liverpool Irish Festival this October.

In a programme of three of short plays, we explore the theme of ‘the undead’ and how Irish peasantry’s relationship between the living and dead was full of mysticism and myth.

Three plays: Riders to the Sea & The Shadow of the Glen by JM Synge and Purgatory by WB Yeats.

Three Irish plays

World Museum Liverpool

Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 OCTOBER

Edmund John Millington Synge (16 April 1871 – 24 March 1909) was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, travel writer and collector of folklore. He was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and was one of the co-founders of the Abbey Theatre.

William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature.

A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and, along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others, founded the Abbey Theatre, where he served as its chief during its early years. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman so honoured.

Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929)

Yeats was an Irish Nationalist at heart, looking for the kind of traditional lifestyle displayed through poems such as ‘The Fisherman’. However, as his life progressed, he sheltered much of his revolutionary spirit and distanced himself from the intense political landscape until 1922, when he was appointed Senator for the Irish Free State.

In the earlier part of his life, Yeats was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Due to the escalating tension of the political scene, Yeats distanced himself from the core political activism in the midst of the Easter Rising, even holding back his poetry inspired by the events until 1920.

Synge is best known for his play The Playboy of the Western World, which caused riots in Dublin during its opening run at the Abbey Theatre.

Although he came from a privileged Anglo-Irish background, Synge‘s writings are mainly concerned with the world of the Roman Catholic peasants of rural Ireland and with what he saw as the essential paganism of their world view. Synge developed Hodgkin’s disease, a metastatic cancer that was then untreatable. He died several weeks short of his 38th birthday as he was trying to complete his last play, Deirdre of the Sorrows.

After graduating, Synge decided that he wanted to be a professional musician and went to Germany to study music. He stayed in Coblenz during 1893 and moved to Würzburg in January 1894. Partly because he was shy about performing in public, and partly because of doubt about his ability, he decided to abandon music and pursue his literary interests. He returned to Ireland in June 1894, and moved to Paris in January 1895 to study literature and languages at the Sorbonne.

In 1897 Synge had his first attack of Hodgkin’s disease and also had an enlarged gland removed from his neck. The following year he spent the summer in the Aran Islands. He spent the next five summers in the Aran Islands, collecting stories and folklore, and perfecting his Irish, while continuing to live in Paris for most of the rest of each year. 

He also visited Brittany regularly. During this period he wrote his first play, When the Moon Has Set and sent it to Lady Gregory for the Irish Literary Theatre in 1900, but she rejected it. (The play was not published until it appeared in the Collected Works.)

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Theatre company formed over 100 years ago in Liverpool.

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