Brian Friel: Theatre and Politics by Anthony Roche (auth.)

By Anthony Roche (auth.)

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Both of the Guthrie productions were to be designed by Guthrie’s long-term collaborator from his days at the Old Vic, Tanya Moiseiwitsch. To all outward appearances, Tyrone Guthrie was English – in many ways, a quintessential English director, speaking a mixture of ‘luvvie speak’ and idiomatic phrases that the American actors often found hard to interpret: ‘They smiled their actors’ smiles when they were told they were “clever pussies”, “rather charming”, “very sweet”. 6 The title of Friel’s article is ‘The Giant of Monaghan’, and it would puzzle almost any general reader, certainly in the 1960s, as a description applied to Sir Tyrone Guthrie.

In the first half of 1963 Friel spent a number of months in the United States as the guest of Sir Tyrone Guthrie at the theatre Guthrie had just founded (and which bore his name) in Minneapolis in the American Midwest. The various accounts Friel has written of the visit are inconsistent and somewhat contradictory. Did he write to Guthrie on his own initiative or was he the recipient of an invitation from the great man? , or did he only sit down and write it after his return to Ireland? How long did he spend there, exactly?

Then, suddenly, PRIVATE springs to his feet: ‘What the bloody hell are you at, O’Donnell? Snap out of it, man! ’ (55–6). As Public does so, Private starts singing ‘a mad air of his own making’ (56) and goes on to deliver a couple of standard jokes. Private Gar has freedom of movement to roam around the stage while Public Gar and the other ‘realistic’ characters are bound to the prescribed rituals of their everyday dialogue and routines. Private questions them on what they are saying and the motives behind their actions.

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