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A highlight of the Imagine Festival will be the performances of The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge by Blue Raincoat Theatre Company for three performances only from Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th October at Garter Lane.
Set on the West Coast of Ireland, it is a tale of heroism and revulsion in a small community, this play tells the story of Christy Mahon, a young man running away from his farm, claiming he killed his father. The Playboy of the Western World is JM Synge’s most famous and controversial play, inspired by his travels on the Irish west coast and was first performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1907, where the audience rioted in protest at the play’s unsentimental treatment of the Irish.
The troubles (since known as the Playboy Riots) were encouraged, in part, by nationalists who believed the theatre was insufficiently political and who took offence at Synge’s use of the word ‘shift’. Much of the crowd rioted loudly, and the actors performed the remainder of the play in dumbshow. The theatre’s decision to call in the police further roused the anger of nationalists. Although press opinion soon turned against the rioters and the protests faded, management of the Abbey was shaken. They chose not to stage Synge’s next – and last completed – play, The Tinker’s Wedding (1908), for fear of further disturbances. Riots of Irish Americans accompanied the play’s opening in New York (1911), and there were further riots in Boston and Philadelphia