Shakespeare Sessions with Cyclone Rep, 2019-2020 – theatre for and in schools

[Info from Civic Theatre, Tallaght, website]

Cyclone Rep, Ireland’s Leading Shakespeare Theatre-in-Education Company, presents The Shakespeare Sessions. These are entertaining and engaging student-centred performances of Shakespeare’s texts. This year the company is presenting The King Lear Session, The Hamlet Session, The Romeo & Juliet Session & The Merchant Session (pending demand).

Each performance includes an edited production of the play together with a scholarly review clarifying the main themes as well as discussions with the students and the opportunity to participate. The Shakespeare Sessions will guide Junior and Senior Cycle learners in their understanding of The Bard’s masterpieces.

For further details and for the 2019-2020 tour schedule, see the Cyclone Rep website.

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The Lear Session  (Image source: Cyclone Rep website)

 


 

Irish Renaissance Seminar at Ulster University – May 18th

“SHAKESPEARE, ULSTER, BEYOND”

A meeting of the Irish Renaissance Seminar

Saturday 18th May 2019 at Ulster University, Belfast

For further information on this meeting of the IRS, please contact the organisers Kevin De Ornellas and Alisa Hemphill.

SCHEDULE

11.00-11.15: Welcome – in the Conor Lecture Theatre:

Kevin De Ornellas, Ulster University, co-organiser

Frank Ferguson, Ulster University, Research Director for English

Tom Maguire, Ulster University, Head of School of Arts and Humanities

11.15-12.05: Shakespeare in India:

Thea Buckley, Queen’s University, Belfast: “Indigenising Cleopatra as South India’s avenging goddess in Jayaraj’s Kannaki”.

Rosa Maria Garcia Periago, Queen’s University, Belfast: “Localising Romeo and Juliet in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram Leela”.

12.05-1pm: (Later) Early Modern European Histories:

Gabriel Guarino, Ulster University: “Sexuality and its Discontents: Marital Tensions and Sexual Defamation in the Court of Bourbon Naples, 1734-1799”.

Andrew Sneddon, Ulster University: “Representing Irish Witchcraft in ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’”.

1pm-1.40pm: Lunch

1.40-2.40pm: Legacies of the Past: Perspectives from around Ireland:

Emily Allen, National University of Ireland, Galway: “Lost Lands and Language: rhetoric of women’s petitions for land during Ireland’s Desmond and Baltinglass Rebellions”.

Nathan Dooner, University College Dublin: “Reactions to a gender-based vocabulary”.

Dónall MacCathmhaoill, Ulster University: “Save the Rose! Space and place in the campaign to preserve an Elizabethan theatre.”

2.40-3.20pm: Keynote Address:

Tom Maguire, Ulster University: “When Shakespeare’s not our contemporary: retelling, adaptation and contemporary children”.

3.20-3.30pm: Break.

3.30-4.20pm: Problems: Books, Brexit:

Marie-Louise Coolahan: National University of Ireland, Galway: “‘My lady’s books’: Devising a toolkit for quantitative research; or, What is a book and how do we count it?”

Stephen O’Neill, National University of Ireland, Maynooth: “Brexit Cliff Notes: Finding Refuge in Shakespeare’s King Lear”.

4.20-5.30pm: Adaptation, Animals, Performance: Four perspectives:

Amanda Finch, Ulster University of Ulster: “Cross-Gender Casting and Violence in Contemporary Performances of Shakespeare’s Comedies”.

Alisa Hemphill, Ulster University: “A common treasury for all: levelling  the animal-human divide through the Digger movement, 1649-1650”.

Kelly McCloy, Ulster University: “‘Alien’: Arnold Wesker and The  Merchant of Venice”. 

Alex Watson, Royal Holloway, University of London: “Protest in Contemporary Adaptations of Shakespeare’s Roman Plays”.

5.30-6.30pm: Conference close and reception


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Gaiety School of Acting Shakespeare Schools Programme: King Lear (Cork and Dublin)

The Gaiety School of Acting Shakespeare Schools Programme presents King Lear. A run at Dean Crowe theatre in Athlone has already been completed, with dates remaining in Cork and Dublin cities at Firkin Crane and Smock Alley theatres respectively.

King Lear

The Gaiety School of Acting – The National Theatre School of Ireland is offering Leaving Cert. students a unique opportunity.

The Gaiety School of Acting is delighted to launch our 2017 production of King Lear. This production will travel to Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, Firkin Crane, Cork and The Dean Crowe Theatre, Athlone from the 23rd of October to the 1st December.

This is the 5th year of our Shakespeare Schools programme and in 2016 we performed Hamlet for almost 6500 students from 130 schools. This means that almost 1 in every 9 students sitting their leaving Certificate English exams in June will have seen our production. We are excited to once again provide students with the opportunity to see Shakespeare’s work live.

Student tickets are €17 with all teachers tickets complimentary. Included in the ticket price is the following:

  • Traditional Production of King Lear (1.5 Hours).
  • Workshop (1 Hour) with a chance to engage with some of the cast about questions on the Leaving Cert, including relationships, characters and themes
  • Student Workbook with information on General Vision and Viewpoint, Social Settings, Characters and Theatrical information.
  • Pre show video for your students which will introduce them to the play, its literary genre and the cultural context.

Dates

Dean CroweAthlone24th-27th October 2017

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin6th-10th November 2017

Firkin Crane, Cork City13th-17th November 2017

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin: 27th November – 1st December 2017

Tickets: € 17 (Teachers complimentary)

Booking info: shakespeare@gaietyschool.com

For programme queries or to speak directly to the Programme Coordinator contact The Gaiety School of Acting on 01 6799277

Review: King Lear at dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum

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King Lear, Mill Productions, dlr Mill Theatre, directed by Geoff O’Keeffe

This production opens with pulsating music, flashes of light, and three gyrating figures moving under the sway of some mesmeric force, so that for a few startling moments you might be at a production of Macbeth rather than King Lear. These are not the weird sisters, however, but Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia who face away from the audience towards a large structure upstage while human actors transformed into wolves snarl and weave around them. Suddenly the stage lights are reversed, dazzling the audience, and the actors’ faces turn to the back of the auditorium: the King is entering.

The large structure ­– half set and half stage property – resembles part of a huge crown with three spikes each jutting in a separate direction, the whole piece off-centre and its balance slightly off-kilter. In the centre is a throne, empty at first, then occupied by Lear, and later hovered over, circled, and sat on by various other characters. This is clearly a disturbed kingdom where powerful forces have gone askew, where there is splintering rather than unity, and where a sense of preternatural menace hums beneath the institutions of state, family, and marriage. It is quickly understood, then, that the sisters’ dance is not an expression of communion but of compulsion and disharmony.

Mill Productions is the production wing of dlr Mill Theatre and this production of King Lear is part of their “education outreach”. When I attended on opening night last Wednesday, about half the audience were a school group who seemed engaged in the performance throughout. The production does a good job of communicating the plot and character relationships clearly without condescending to the viewer at any point, and of showing how the visual and aural language of theatre generate the play’s meaning as it is lifted off the page. A number of characters are played by the same actor, as they would have been in Shakespeare’s time, but this doubling was never confusing.

It was also made use of artistically in the case of the choice to double the parts of Cordelia and the Fool, played by Clodagh Mooney Duggan. There has been speculation since the nineteenth century about whether the roles – which are never simultaneously on stage – might originally have been doubled. This production seemed to encourage us to consider in parallel how Cordelia and the Fool relate to Lear, challenging but loving him, and the first half ends with the Fool in tears and alone taking off his coxcomb hat to reveal more clearly that this was also Cordelia’s face. Such a choice does pose certain obstacles, however, and perhaps hampered the development of both characters.

I enjoyed the cool malice of Sharon McCoy’s multifaceted Goneril who managed to be both fragile and terrible. Philip Judge succeeded in presenting a Lear who was clearly deeply flawed at the same time as sympathetic. When he laid his head in the Fool’s lap and implored “O let me not be mad, not mad”, his desperation and vulnerability were heartrending. So too was his later admission to Cordelia that “to deal plainly / I fear I am not in my perfect mind”, where the gentle cautiousness of the delivery alongside the situation’s absurdity made it truly moving. It was these moments of pathos for humanity as the trappings of civility are eroded, even as we recognise human culpability, that stayed with me after I left the theatre.

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King Lear runs at dlr Mill Theatre until 28 October with nearly daily matinée performances at 10am and 1.30pm. Contact the Box Office for 10am and 1.30pm performances please – info@milltheatre.ie / 01-2969340. There will be evening performances at 7.30pm on Wednesday 25th October and Thursday 26th October.

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King Lear at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum

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King Lear at dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum, Co. Dublin

Mill Productions present what is widely regarded as Shakespeare’s crowning artistic achievement. King Lear is set in the court of an aging British monarch. Shakespeare probably wrote it in around 1604, sandwiched between two other great tragedies, Othello and Macbeth. Mill Productions, having produced Macbeth in 2013 and Othello in 2014 now set to bring the ultimate Shakespearian tragedy King Lear to the stage. Directed by Geoffrey O’Keeffe and featuring a talented professional cast, this is a traditional production, with genuinely gripping and often affecting performances which sharpen our understanding of Shakespeare’s analysis of human folly and strive to do justice to this greatest of plays.

Starring Philip Judge as Lear.

Evening Performances at 7.30pm:
Wednesday 11th October
Thursday 12th October
Wednesday 25th October
Thursday 26th October

 

Review: Lear by John Scott / Irish Modern Dance Theatre

Review: Lear, choreographed by John Scott and starring Valda Setterfield, at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College Dublin (22 October)

Guest post by Katherine Hennessey, Visiting Fellow, Moore Institute, NUI Galway

I’ve overdosed on Shakespeare recently, I confess. As a research fellow with the Global Shakespeare programme at the University of Warwick and Queen Mary University of London, during a period that spanned two commemorative years (the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in 2014, and the quadricentenary of his death in 2016), I’ve binged. I’ve gorged. If plays, films, re-writings, adaptations, parodies, books, articles, blog postings, and the ‘Shakespeare vs. Dr. Seuss’ epic rap battle were grams of trans fat, then in early 2014 I was Cassius—and now I’m Falstaff. Or Nell.

It started innocently enough, with a production of Two Gents at the RSC in August 2014. For a few months afterwards I continued to function like a normal human being. But then things began to spiral out of control.

Sigh. It’s the age-old story: you watch a Romeo and Juliet or two, a Midsummer Night’s Dream, perhaps a Richard II. Gradually you come to learn that the Globe offers £5 groundling tickets… that the BBC archives Shakespeare films on Box of Broadcasts… that there’s a troupe out there doing a history play with an all-female cast, or a gender-reversed Taming of the Shrew, or that Ninagawa is producing Hamlet in Japanese at the Barbican. Before you know it you’ve seen seven Macbeths, six Othellos in four different languages, five different stagings—God help you—of Titus Andronicus. You just can’t help yourself. You see Shakespeare everywhere.

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You begin to cackle defiantly in the face of marathon productions. Spend an entire gloriously sunny Saturday cooped up in the Rose Theatre in Kingston binge-watching Trevor Nunn’s Wars of the Roses? Who wouldn’t?!? Six-plus hours of DruidShakespeare? Bring it, Garry Hynes. BRING. IT.

And then, every so often, you find yourself at a production that’s so balanced, so evocative, so crystalline in its clarity that it rises above the out-of-joint chaos, above the jumbled fragments of memory of the other Shakespeare performances that you’ve seen.

For me, the contemporary dance production of Lear by John Scott and Valda Setterfield, performed at Trinity College Dublin’s black box theatre, was the dramatic equivalent of a glass of ice-cold spring water on a sweltering summer day. (To see an interview with Scott and to see the dancers in action, click here.)

 

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Lear and daughters  (Credit: Patrick Moore)

Credit for this belongs in equal measure to the 82-year-old Setterfield’s grace, command, and fragility in the title role, to the hauntingly expressive ensemble work that Scott choreographed for her and her supporting cast, and—perhaps above all—to their radical re-invention of Shakespeare’s text and characters, and their jettisoning of almost all of his language in favor of their own, both verbal and kinetic. I’ve seen numerous productions of Lear over the past two years, but they’ve all been riffs on a core theme, to which this Lear provided an utterly refreshing contrast.

Setterfield plays the king as a male character, while his daughters are played by a trio of male dancers, Mufutau Yusuf, Ryan O’Neill, and Kevin Coquelard, as Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia respectively (the trio also play the Fool). Lear radically alters its source text, a fact which the set itself advertises from the outset, its back wall covered with sheets of white paper bearing fragments of Shakespeare’s lines: ‘kingdom,’ ‘a poor, bare, forked animal,’ ‘my wits begin to turn,’ ‘down from the waist they are centaurs’. Initial sequences of movement, in which the male dancers pace, then race, across the stage, repeating single but significant words from the text (like ‘Father’, ‘legacy’, ‘condition’, ‘scanted’) suggest a fierce sibling rivalry.

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(Credit: IMDT on Vimeo)

 

The first scene in which extended Shakespearean dialogue is spoken—beginning from Lear’s ‘Give me the map there,’ referring to what looks like a modern residential zoning plan hanging from the rear wall—continues only to Cordelia’s ‘So young, my lord, and true.’ At which point, Coquelard breaks character, or invents a new Cordelia, retorting in a mixture of English and his native French, ‘You want a translation? You are stupid. Silly, stupid Lear. I said already that I love you as is right fit. What more do you want from me?’ As the argument escalates, Coquelard speaks heatedly in franglais, expressing his intention to leave the situation (the argument with Lear? the production of Lear?) and return to his beloved France; he climbs up to a catwalk and storms out a side exit, singing an Edith Piaf tune and strutting in comic defiance.

The production provides abbreviated highlights from Shakespeare’s text, interspersed like the first with increasingly poignant dialogue in contemporary English. Perched on an armchair that doubles as a throne, Setterfield answers a series of telephone calls, of which we hear only her side of the conversation, in character as an elderly father pleading with his child to come visit. ‘It’s been so long since we’ve seen you. We all miss you. The dog misses you.’ The calls involve a series of increasingly urgent requests for help: the local pharmacist has mixed up the elderly mother’s prescriptions; the boiler has broken and water is pouring down the stairs, leaving the father unable to reach the mother’s medication.

These pleas are later cruelly mocked by Goneril and Regan, who grow increasingly resentful of the burden of responding to their elderly father’s requests. O’Neill at one point provides a litany of increasingly impatient conversations with his elderly parent: ‘Did you lose your glasses again? All the food in your refrigerator is past its expiration date. Are the stairs getting too much for you these days? Have you taken your medication? I’ve heard about a nice retirement home near here. You left the front door open again…’ And at one point his Regan and Yusuf’s Goneril dance menacing circles around a weeping, cowering Lear.

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(Credit: Patrick Moore)

 

Setterfield portrays a ruler whose frailty and advanced age are much more evident than his/her tendency, clearly delineated in Shakespeare’s text, to bully and domineer. This production finesses Lear’s obvious missteps and misjudgments by excising most instances of them, replacing them with the haunting one-sided telephone conversations, and with a contrite Regan’s agonizing communication of a doctor’s death-knell diagnosis: ‘He says you can never come home.’

Coquelard’s Cordelia eventually redeems herself for her earlier outburst by a series of tender gestures of care for Lear towards the conclusion. And like her sisters, she dances circles around her father, but rather in the joyful manner of a child shouting ‘Watch me, Daddy!’, basking in parental attention and affection, heedless of Lear’s increasing concern that she is running too fast and will fall (a reasonable fear, it seemed to me, given Coquelard’s incredibly swift pace around a floor strewn haphazardly with sheets of paper). Eventually she collapses, exhausted, and Setterfield’s Lear faces her beloved daughter’s death with a heartwrenchingly dignified resignation.

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(Credit: Patrick Moore)

Scott and Setterfield link their Lear to the tender spectacle of elderly parents, pining for a visit from their indifferent or otherwise-occupied children, tapping into the deep vein of compassion that animates Shakespeare’s play. One of the most moving aspects of Shakespeare’s Lear, after all, is that after suffering abject loss and despair and the chastisement of Mother Nature, he comes to empathise with the ‘poor naked wretches’ bereft of warmth and shelter in his kingdom, summing up his failings as a ruler with devastating understatement: ‘O, I have ta’en / Too little care of this.’ Scott’s and Setterfield’s portrayal of Lear elicits a deep compassion and concern for the aging, the frail, the lonely, for those whose minds are deteriorating, their memories fading. It prompts us to ask, ‘Have I taken sufficient care of this?’ And the emotional impact of the dancers’ movements and their words will remain with me long after the memories of many other Year of Shakespeare King Lears fade.

 

Guest post – Katherine Hennessey is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Moore Institute at NUI Galway. She co-convened, with Clair Wills and Fintan O’Toole, the Ireland and Shakespeare symposium at Princeton in March 2016 and is the author of Shakespeare on the Arabian Peninsula (Palgrave 2017). From January 2017 she will be an assistant professor in the English department at the American University of Kuwait.

Review: Reason in Madness, Draíocht Theatre

Reason in Madness: A Devised Reworking

Draíocht Theatre, Blanchardstown, Dublin, 29-30 November 2016.

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Directed by Aisling Byrne. Design: Ciaran O’Melia; Dramaturgy: Oonagh Murphy; Sound Design: Susie Birmingham; Costume: Kate Bauer.

Cast: Mark Smith as Lear; Jane Ryan as Goneril; Ella-Jane Moore as Reagan; Michelle Brennan as Cordelia; Wesley Fairbrother as Kent; Maurice Coll as Gloucester; John Egan as Edmund; Paul O’Neill as Edgar; Kate Bauer as psychologist; Sean McPartland as the Fool; Bert Coster as Cornwall; and Conor Begley as Oswald.

Reviewed by Stephen O’Neill

 

It has sometimes been claimed that Irish theatre can’t quite do Shakespeare or that it has an attenuated relationship to Shakespeare for a variety of reasons that are cultural, historical and ideological. The absence of Shakespeare from the Abbey’s 2017 programme is likely to reactivate such claims. And even 2015’s DruidShakespeare, which gave the lie to such arguments, nonetheless ended up being ghosted by them, as critics located the production in the context of how previous Irish productions had faired with Shakespearean verse and themes, and determined that Druid had Gaelicised or Hibernicised Shakespeare’s English history plays. However, such broad and ultimately improbable claims about the national theatre scene risk overlooking more local theatre and community based productions of Shakespeare. Reason in Madness: A Devised Reworking of Lear gives the lie to the notion that Irish theatre productions must be filtered through questions of cultural nationalism. In this production by Run of the Mill Theatre, a 16 strong ensemble cast of artists with disabilities, bring us into Lear’s kingdom, but not as we know it.

 

The pre-scene features the cast on stage, awaiting the arrival of Lear: “The King is on his way”, the announcer explains, followed by the customary instruction to the audience to turn off mobile phones. The cast themselves hold phones, a visual cue to the dominance of technology and social media in this production, with tweet updates from @CourtGossip, or images of a bounded and blinded Gloucester displayed on a screen above stage. The use of social media, along with pop music, is not gimmicky but serves the story world and amplifies its themes. Under Aisling Byrne’s direction, the major concerns of Shakespeare’s play – the family, mortality, the vulnerability of the human being, the fragmentation of a political order – take on a more particular resonance in the context of a performance by actors with intellectual disabilities.

 

Theatre can importantly shift normative structures of viewing and representation, disrupting audience and indeed wider cultural assumptions about how value is assigned to particular bodies and identities, and how, by extension, it is denied to others, or doled out in a limited way. The work of Run of the Mill Theatre, founded in 2014 by Aisling Byrne and the participants of the drama and theatre training programmes within St. John of God Community Services, realises the capacity of theatrical performance to alter ways of seeing and release a dispersal of representational value. Blue Apple Theatre, established in the UK in 2005, have being doing similar work with actors with learning difficulties. Lawrie Morris, who played Claudius in the Blue Apple’s 2012 Hamlet, captures what the production means to him: “I think people out there in the world need to see that people are capable of doing Shakespeare, even with a learning disability like we’ve got”. In America, similar initiatives are to be found. Project A.B.L.E (Artists Breaking Limits and Expectations), founded by Kate Yohe, features a group of actors with Down Syndrome and other developmental needs in Twelfth Night at Chicago’s Shakespeare Theatre. Run of the Mill’s Reason in Madness importantly contributes to increased representational visibility and opportunity; the Arts Council’s support of such work, valued internationally, is welcome. There is no sentimentality to this production; instead, the cast produce something that makes meaning on its own terms. Striking is the sense of a collective, of a directorial hand operating with a lightness of touch, of actors helping each other onto and off the stage, and having lots of fun in doing so. But there are also stand out performances: Mark Smith as Lear is all kingly deportment, then disintegration as Goneril and Regan vie for power; Ella-Jane Moore as Reagan revels in mock royal waves as she takes to the throne; Jane Ryan’s Goneril is busy tweeting about court intrigue; John Egan plays Edmund with a maniacal, pantomime laugh.

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For a small theatre company, this is an ambitious production. Run of the Mill make good use of Draiocht’s large stage, filling it with the ensemble cast, with hooded figures that haunt Lear, or by creating a distinct performance space stage right, where a psychologist, played by Kate Bauer (who also gives subtle onstage assistance to the performers) tests Lear’s memory loss. The Director’s note offers the audience one way to interpret such extra-diegetic elements, plot additions and the wider implication of Reason in Madness. Byrne notes “that the rate of developing early onset dementia stands at an estimated 75% greater risk for adults with Down Syndrome was a sobering reminder of the pertinence of a story where the gift of growing older can come with a price; and one that seems so steep and unfair for individuals who have already fought long to have their voices heard in society”. However, on a Wednesday evening in a packed Draiocht Theatre, the play’s sense of endings – of plot, of life, of political power – become a celebration of life and of community. As an audience member, you cannot but be aware of the family, friends who are there to support and cheer on the actors.

 

Reason in Madness is a cacophonous, energetic and reassembled Lear. The spoken word converges with dance, with now iconic pop tracks (from Icona Pop’s “I Love It” for the opening love test to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” to capture Goneril and Regan’s relationship with Edmund), with social media and news images. Shakespeare’s tragedy is defamiliarised, in ways that recall Elaine Feinstein’s Lear’s Daughters (1987), another production that emerged out of theatre workshops, and which pared back the main plot to reveal a dark nursery rhyme about the symbolic power of fathers. Byrne and the ensemble cast are very much in touch with current trends in Shakespeare performance studies, where the energy of a Shakespeare play in production is understood as residing in post-textual, adapted and remediated responses. Experienced as fragments, from alternate perspectives, or with and through other media, the Shakespeare play reforms in our minds as a dazzlingly new theatrical experience. The programme note makes reference to the production’s repackaging as a “gift” to Shakespeare in this, the year of the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. Reason in Madness rewards all of its participants, actors and audience alike, because the Shakespeare it produces is not a site of privilege or some inherited entity that, in an Irish context, is to be revered or feared. Rather, it’s the catalyst for a dynamic theatrical experience.

 

Dr Stephen O’Neill is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Maynooth University Department of English. He is the author of Shakespeare and YouTube (Bloomsbury, 2014), Staging Ireland: Representations in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama (Four Courts, 2007) and several essays on Shakespeare and popular culture. With Janet Clare, he co-edited Shakespeare and the Irish Writer (UCD Press, 2011). Twitter: @mediaShakes