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John Bull's Other Island

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(1904)




Highly deserving of rediscovery, this examination of capitalism run amok (with mordant side observations on the electoral process) set in pre-independence Ireland has been "out of fashion" in recent years - perhaps because of the initial perception that it was ALL and only about Irish-British relations. According to the author it was composed at the request of the great poet W.B. Yeats (then head of Dublin's Abbey Theatre, and was clearly aimed at an Irish perspective - even if first actually performed in London (at the Court Theatre in November, 1904). Looking at it a hundred and five years later however, Shaw's tale of two friends' journey to British ruled Ireland, one as a visiting Briton hoping to make his local mark, one as a returning son, calls to mind less turn of the last century local issues than modern preservationist interests vs. those who would develop absolutely everything and everywhere - regardless of the desires of local residents and the need for open space. Add to this the idea of politicians pandering to a voting public and you have a sharp witted play which has thus far only been seen on Broadway twice over 50 years ago (and in repertory both times), but which may be ripe for a major new production with the right cast.--Submitted by John Esche


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