This article sketches Irish history and how Irish nationalism deployed cultural production – including radical theatre – as a means of asserting itself as a political and moral force. “Radical Theatre” prompts questions around what both Baz Kershaw and Herbert Blau refer to as “efficacy,” insofar as it implies engagements with content, form, and audiences outside of those which characterise accepted, dominant or commercial manifestations of theatre practice. And yet, scholars and practitioners of radical theatre confront the slipperiness of the concept of radical theatre: it shifts emphasis between theatre as cultural intervention for social progress (a critical, subversive, ethical vocation), and theatre as aesthetic invention (privileging formal experimentation). Also, the radical gesture itself is always at risk of compromise and co-option to that which it seeks to critique. To be efficacious, radical cultural work must inevitably confront the state, and will have to come to terms with, and produce, a narrative of the past. All of these characteristics problematise the practice and understanding of radical theatre in Ireland.



1916 Rising, Irish theatre, nationalism, radical

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
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Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)