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Ulster Literary Theatre, The

Cathleen Ni Houlihan, Deirdre, Brian of Banba, The Reformers

hobson yeats plays abbey

was founded by Bulmer Hobson and David Parkhill in Belfast in 1902. Although Hobson and Parkhill had been strongly influenced by the Irish Literary Theatre, later the Abbey Theatre, which had been founded by Yeats, Moore, Martyn, and Lady Gregory, Yeats gave little support to its Ulster equivalent. In reaction, Hobson is said to have exclaimed: ‘Damn Yeats, we'll write our own plays!’, which they did, developing an Ulster variant of the Abbey's style of peasant drama. Hobson and, in particular, Parkhill (who used the pseudonym Lewis Purcell) wrote several of the theatre's early plays. Their beginnings, however, were not as pioneering as they had hoped, with the productions of Yeats's Cathleen Ni Houlihan in 1902 and, after a long period of silence, Deirdre by George Russell (‘AE’) in 1904. The company still called itself the Ulster Branch of the Irish Literary Theatre but, eventually, the original group in Dublin took exception to this and demanded that they changed their name. They became the Ulster Literary Theatre and quickly began to develop a distinctive character, in both the performance and the writing of plays. Hobson's Brian of Banba and Purcell's The Reformers were produced towards the end of 1904. Purcell wrote two amusing parodies of the Abbey's style which attracted the interest and talents of Gerald McNamara, who added The Mist that Does Be on the Bog in 1909, a hilarious send-up of the peasant plays so popular in Dublin at that time. Rutherford Mayne became the company's most successful playwright; his comedy The Drone (1908) was a huge success with Northern audiences and became central to the company's repertoire. The Ulster Theatre, as it had become in 1915, provided first production opportunities to playwrights such as George Shiels and St John Ervine. The Ulster Theatre had to disband in 1934 due to financial difficulties and the strains of its nomadic existence, but its important contribution to Irish drama remains significant.

Ulster poetry - Death of a Naturalist, Late but in Earnest, Night Crossing, No Continuing City, Preoccupations [next]

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