With the threat of Lockdown #2, we’ve created a list of some necessary reading to keep you inspired. October is officially here and what’s better than an autumn aesthetic of reading a play with a warm blanket on your shoulders and a steaming cup of tea next to you?
We’ve prepared a list of our picks for plays written by Irish female playwrights that are available on Amazon. Ranging from spooky to modern, from tragic to funny, at least a few of these are bound to satisfy your literary cravings. So sit comfortably in your chair, stick on the kettle, and pick your favourite.
La Corbière by Anne Le Marquand Hartigan
When a boatload of French prostitutes is shipwrecked off the coast of German occupied Jersey, their bodies are left to drift on the tide for days, their long peroxide hair floating out on the waves. This tragic image is the starting point for a powerful, poetic sound-scape, a requiem to the forgotten victims of the second World War.
By the Bog of Cats (Faber Drama) by Marina Carr
It wouldn’t really be a respectable list about female Irish playwrights if we didn’t include a Marina Carr play.
Set in the mysterious landscape of the bogs of rural Ireland, Carr’s lyrical and timeless play tells the story of Hester Swane, an Irish Traveller with a deep and unearthly connection to her land. Tormented by the memory of a mother who deserted her, Hester is once again betrayed, this time by the father of her child, the man she loves. On the brink of despair, she embarks on a terrible journey of vengeance as the secrets of her tangled history are revealed.
Desolate Heaven (Modern Plays) by Ailis Ni Riain
Desolate Heaven is a story of two young girls burdened with unnatural responsibilities. It is a story of falling in love for the first time and a story about running away. It is a story about growing up too soon and about why love can sometimes be dangerous.
Emma Donoghue: Selected Plays by Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue is an award-winning Irish-born playwright, literary historian and novelist.
This collection of plays includes Kissing The Witch, Don’t Die Wondering, Trespasses, Ladies and Gentlemen, and I Know My Own Heart.
- KISSING THE WITCH: This play interweaves four classic plots Beauty and the Beast, Donkeyskin, the Goose Girl, the Little Mermaid with an invented one about a desperate girl going to a witch for help. Dublin’s own The Corps Ensemble, in partnership with axis: Ballymun, are presenting a recorded performance of Kissing the Witch later this month! You can learn more and book your digital tickets here.
- TRESPASSES: Set over three days in 1661, Trespasses is inspired by the judge’s own account of one of the tiny handful of witch trials that ever took place in Ireland.
- LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: This play was inspired by a real same-sex wedding that took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1886. It resurrects a ragtag troupe of emigrants – most notably, male impersonator Annie Hindle, a man’s widow and a woman’s widower, as the tabloids called her.
- I KNOW MY OWN HEART: Inspired by the secret coded diaries of Yorkshire gentlewoman Anne Lister, this play subverts all the conventions of Regency romance. Teasing out the entangled lives of mannish, arrogant Lister (nicknamed ‘Gentleman Jack’) and three of her many lovers, I Know My Own Heart explores the different choices women made in a time of limits and prohibitions.
- DON’T DIE WONDERING: When a restaurant cook loses her job because of a homophobic customer, she mounts a one-woman picket in protest. The police officer assigned to protect her is her nemesis from schooldays. This one-act comedy, set in a fictional small town, stages a battle between old and new elements of Irish culture.
Click here to get the paperback edition.
Scorch (NHB Modern Plays) by Stacey Gregg
A touching and provocative story of first love through the eyes of a gender-curious teen, Scorch was inspired by recent UK cases of ‘gender fraud’.
For those who feel they’re not living the right life, online is a place to be yourself.
‘More real than real life. I’m honest on there. I’m being honest. That’s important.’
Out in the real world, though, things can be very different.
The Cordelia Dream by Marina Carr
Another brilliant Marina Carr play.
Haunted by her dream of Cordelia and Lear, a woman confronts an elderly man, her lifelong antagonist and rival. During their passionate altercation he dismisses her success as a composer and demands she make the ultimate sacrifice: for him to flourish she, his protegee, must be silent. Five years later, she returns for a final and devastating encounter.
Little Gem (NHB Modern Plays) by Elaine Murphy
Love, sex, birth, death and salsa classes. Three generations of women. One extraordinary year.
Amber has fierce bad indigestion and the sambucas aren’t getting rid of it. Lorraine attacks a customer and her boss wants her to see a psychiatrist. Kay’s got an itch ‘down there’ that Gem can’t scratch. And if all that wasn’t bad enough, Little Gem makes his presence felt and – well – life is never the same again.
The Wheelchair on My Face; Charolais; The Humours of Bandon (Modern Plays) by Sonya Kelly, Noni Stapleton, Margaret McAuliffe
This collection includes three vibrant and theatrical monologue plays.
- The Wheelchair on My Face by Sonya Kelly: Combining memoir, theatre and stand-up comedy, this delightful story of a myopic child shows us how we can better the world even if we cannot see the world. This play is a perfect read for October as October is World Blindness Awareness Month.
- Charolais by Noni Stapleton: A dark comedy of love, longing and an intense rivalry with a Charolais cow.
- The Humours of Bandon by Margaret McAuliffe: Armed with optimism, drive and passion, Annie’s about to learn that life doesn’t always go according to plan.
My Brilliant Divorce by Geraldine Aron
Good-natured, slightly overweight, former window-dresser Angela (declared age 39, real age 51) thinks her marriage will last forever. But suddenly her husband, Max, who has an irritatingly round head, loses his heart to beautiful young Rosa, and moves out.
Cheerful about her unexpected freedom at first, Angela’s spirits begin to droop as she copes with a mother who won’t acknowledge the break-up because she considers divorce common, a misogynous solicitor, and Christmas alone, apart from Dexter, the family dog, and a number of help-line counsellors.
Woman and Scarecrow by Marina Carr
We’ve been trying to add other authors in between the Carr plays but the truth is that her plays definitely fit the October mood. Here’s the summary of the play.
Woman is dying. Mother to eight children and wife to an unfaithful husband, she is living her final hours with Scarecrow, her alter ego – her closest confidante and greatest critic – as death noisily interrupts from the sidelines. Together, the women revisit her life with biting humor and brutal honesty.
While all of these plays are available on Amazon, there is one playwright that we discovered during our research that doesn’t have her plays available on Amazon. If you truly want to go for dark academia/magical October vibes, why not check for Geraldine Dorothy Cummins’ plays in your local library.
Cummins (1890–1969) was an Irish spiritualist medium, novelist, playwright, and suffragette. Her novels and plays typically documented Irish life in a naturalist manner, often exploring the pathos of everyday life.
Her four plays are called Broken Faith, The Way of the World, Fox and Geese, and Till Yesterday Comes. Find them if you can.
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