This essay examines the ways in which women in the lowest socio-economic class are represented on the contemporary Irish stage. Its central concern is with the ways in which the Naturalistic dramatic representation of the home as a domestic sphere for poor women may confound nationalist discourses of the country as home, yet may fail to resist the systemic violence of the state against its most precarious citizens. To do so I set the actual economic conditions of these precarious women alongside social attitudes to poverty and the poor to demonstrate the systemic violence enacted on the most vulnerable. Turning then to dominant media representations, the essay questions the interaction between representation and reality more generally, whereby Ireland’s poorest are demonised and disenfranchised as figures of fun or fear in forms of representational violence. Against this broader backdrop, the paper identifies recurrent forms of and tropes in stage representations to raise questions about both the form and function of theatre for contemporary spectators, focusing on two contemporary plays Waiting on Ikea and Pineapple. For some, this promotes pleasures of recognition; for others the frisson of class voyeurism. The central argument is that little has changed since O'Casey put Juno Boyle and Bessie Burgess onstage – in either the precarious lives led by poor women, their representation on stage or the failures of the audiences or the state to accept responsibility for the unequal lives of Irish citizens.
- Irish drama