Troubling spaces: the representation of space and place in Troubles-era Northern Irish drama
Cimei, Christopher Yo
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Troubling Spaces explores the relationship between the representation of space and place on the Northern Irish stage and the production of space that occurs within Northern Irish society during the Troubles. Drawing from Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space, I examine how Nationalists and Unionists produced a series of communal narratives which allowed them to reorder Northern Irish space and its social relations. Additionally, I examine how these communal ideologies create divergent concepts of Northern Irish place which Doreen Massey refers to as negative and enclosed concepts of place. This not only reinforces the dualistic binary between Nationalism and Unionism, it also incites tribal associations and allegiances. Moving on from this, I conduct a close reading of three Troubles plays, Stewart Parker’s Northern Star and Pentecost and Christina Reid’s Tea in a China Cup, to examine how their dramatic narratives intersect and interact with non-traditional stage space to produce dramatic environments which provide compelling commentaries on Northern Irish spatiality. My examination of Northern Star traces the development of the ideological structures which shape Northern Irish spatiality; in Pentecost, I explore how its liminal domestic space is perfectly suited to illustrate the dynamic conceptualisation of place Massey argues for; and, finally, in Tea in a China Cup, I develop the distinction between private domestic spaces and public social spaces further by examining matrilineal narratives in relation to communal symbols within a female-coded domestic space. Through these close readings, I will demonstrate that a dialogical relationship can be discerned between the production of space and place that occurs within Northern Irish society and the representation of it on the Northern Irish stage. While many plays have the potential to act as an endorsement of the restrictive and enclosed concepts of space and place in the ideological frameworks of Nationalism and Unionism, the three that I have chosen provide important counterpoints during the Troubles that actively resist their cultural hegemony.