Movement from Romance to Tragedy
From Our Dublin Correspondent The Abbey Theatre sent its principal company last week to America, for its seventh tour there. The speeches at the farewell lunch threw interesting light on the thought of our younger writers, and I therefore borrow pasiages from the Irish Times report.
Dr. Walter Starkie —who is, by the way, the only Catholic Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, presided and said that the importance of the tours could not be exaggerated, and the players took to the Irish in America the culture and life of the great mother race. The importance of a national theatre in a country lay in the fact that it was a meeting place for all she arts. The Abbey Theatre had proved itself such a place, and had taken a great part in building up the national life of the country.
Mr. Frank O'Connor, one of the new directors of the Abbey, spoke of future policy. A hundred years after Cervantes had exploded he said, the heroic tradition in Spanish literature that tradition still survived on the Spanish stage, and he had warned the Abbey against similar stage conservatism here, as that might let them fail behind the progress of events in Ireland.
Two Years Work
Speaking fifteen years after the Irish revolution, he felt that it was not then ade quately represented on the Irish stages The reconstructed Abbey Board of Directors had now been working for two years, and, though such developments as he had in mind could not be carried out in a brief period, he thought that some of their later work proved that the Abbey was coming more and more into touch with the spirit of present-day Ireland. That was especially notable on the part of such writers as Teresa Deevy, particularly in her play, The Wild Goose, and in Paul Carroll's Shadow and Substance, one of the masterpieces of the Irish theatre.
There had been two phases in the history of the Abbey Theatre. The first was when Yeats discovered his country in the slough of sentiment, into which subject nations ever sink, and in which Wales and Scotland were to-day.
In that period the Abbey, in producing plays like Cathleen Ni Houlihan, had given with great power and imagination, the sentiment of a street ballad raised to a literary level. The next phase was one which was rather harshly called the realistic phase—he thought " harshly," because, to his mind, the most important and significant plays of that period were the realistic comedies. These gave hack to the people the power to laugh at themselves, a power which was lost by all sentimental subject nations.
Taking Themselves Seriously
Now they were passing out of that phase, and, having learned to laugh at themselves, they were approaching a phase when they had to take themselves seriously.
He believed that the new phase would find tragedy predominant. The drift was now towards tragedy, and with it would come satire. They already had the first appearance of this movement in Shadow curet Substance.
The Abbey wanted their young dramatists to express for the theatre the emotions and development going on all around them, to interpret the Ireland of to-day, with its problems and tendencies. In doing that work the young dramatists would have every encouragement and sympathy from the theatre.
No Fear of the Cinema Mr. F. R. Higgins, the poet, who will go with the Company to America, said that the theatre had started the production of Gaelic plays, and in the coming season they hoped to produce many plays in Gaelic at the Abbey. They who were of the revolutionary Ireland desired to give expression to that revolutionary Ireland on the stage of their own time, and that the work of their dramatists should be influenced by the spirit of the nation. They felt that in interpreting the spirit of the nation they would also be interpreting the spirit of the age in which they lived.
They heard much talk of the danger the cinema constituted to the theatre. In the Abbey Theatre they had no fear of the rivalry of the cinema; work such as theirs was bound to go on, because it was rich in dialect and in regional speech which was not suitable for the cinema.
In Ireland, where they had a splendid imagination and rich speech, these things should be brought on • to the stage by dramatists who were keeping in touch with their own people, dramatists who were conscious of the world outside, but could give those movements an Irish tang.
To such dramatists the Abbey Theatre would give every sympathy and encouragement, because they felt that the theatre must grow in unity with the life of the nation. In the coming season they hoped to have some plays produced expressive of that new development, plays essentially in the national spirit, and they also hoped to show such plays to the Irish in America.
in the autumn of next year, Mr. Higgins said, a great festival of Abbey plays will be given about the Horse Show season, reviving one of the old Abbey successes every day, with daily lectures on the drama.