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Friday Night – Playboy of the Western World by Ann Treacy
October 7, 2007, 11:48 am
Filed under: Dublin

On Friday night Patrick and I went to see the Playboy of the Western World at the Abbey. It’s part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

Originally by JM Synge, Playboy debuted at the Abbey Theatre in 1907. The story is set in a pub in Mayo. The excitement sets in when Christy Mahon enters; he’s a young man running away from his farm, claiming he killed his father. The people in the town are more interested in vicariously enjoying his story than in condemning the morality of his murderous deed. He captures the romantic attention of the bar-maid Pegeen Mike, the daughter of Flaherty.

When it first ran, the play caused a riot because Irish nationalists thought it was an insulting commentary on Irish culture. The riot really began when on stage 2 characters try to disguise Christy in a women’s slip (shift) to sneak him out of the town. (You can get more history from Wikipedia – for the interested minority.)

I relay the whole play because the version we saw on Friday was a rewrite by Roddy Doyle – who wrote the commitments and a Nigerian playwright.

The new version is set in a pub in West Dublin. The Playboy comes from Nigeria. The language was like that of the Commitments – not like early 1900’s Western Ireland. It was great.

It was interesting to see what remained from the original and what was changed. Some said they went too far with the language and that the poetry was lost. But I didn’t think so. Or if it was lost, it was lost to the wit of pub talk today. Also I don’t mind poetry that’s a little rough – I love Brendan Kennelly and he uses lots of words I don’t want to hear Aine repeat. In fact, you even hear those words on TV and radio here. So for better or for worse that is the poetry of today.

I loved when Pegeen told Christy that she has “done the Google” on his name and town to see if there are any stories about his murdered father.

The play is an interesting commentary on life in Dublin today. Pegeen’s father is connected and they talk of various gangs and gang members. (Coincidently many of those gang members are not looking to sell their memoirs!) I think the only way to make the playboy seem exotic was to make him Nigerian. There are so many non-nationals living here that American isn’t exotic, nor is Romanian, Polish, or French. English is rarely the primary language on the bus!

I suspect that this show will play in Dublin for a while and perhaps tour. It was a great show.

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