Concert in Cork by UCC’s Early Music Ensemble and Chamber Musicians

University College Cork’s Early Music Ensemble (directed by Simon MacHale) and Chamber Music Ensemble (directed by Dr Jillian Rogers) will perform a joint evening concert of chamber and consort music of the fifteenth to eighteenth century on Wednesday 10th May.

This free event will take place in the beautiful nineteenth century surroundings of St. Vincent’s Church, Cork city, at 7.30pm.


St. Vincent’s church, Sunday’s Well, Cork city.



Report: Celebrating Shakespeare 400: Performing Pericles, Prince of Tyre in Cork

In mid-November 2015, the Irish Renaissance Seminar met in Marsh’s Library. The seminar theme “Time, Memory, and Commemoration” looked back back to the past but also looked expectantly to the future via an open discussion of plans for the Shakespeare quartercentenary. Many of the proposals which were aired at the meeting bore fruit and have been promoted and cataloged on this blog. My project “Celebrating Shakespeare 400: Performing Pericles, Prince of Tyre”, funded by the Irish Research Council New Foundations Scheme, was one of the final commemorative events in Irish universities in 2016.

The project’s primary aim was to make a unique contribution to the worldwide celebrations of Shakespeare 400. It sought too to inspire interest in Shakespeare’s lesser-known drama; to deepen our understanding of Shakespeare’s sources and his legacy; and to cultivate networks between scholars, theatre practitioners, and the general public. The project comprised a staged reading of Shakespeare’s critically-neglected late play Pericles, Prince of Tyre (c.1606) held in the Unitarian Church in Cork city, and a symposium and public lecture held in University College Cork.

unitarian church Cork

The Unitarian Church, Cork city

Although unfamiliar to a general audience, Pericles proved to be ideally suited to performance as a staged reading. Story-telling is central to its dramaturgy and, as its narrator Gower insists, the tale is designed to “glad your ear and please your eyes”. As hoped, the performance introduced a new audience to this little-known Shakespearean romance. Part of this new audience included the cast of community actors – students from UCC Drama and Theatre Studies and the local LittleShoes drama group – as Pericles was unfamiliar to them and indeed most had never performed Shakespeare before. After just two days of rehearsals we were delighted to take to the stage, with our director Sinead Dunphy, to perform for a packed house. The reading had in fact sold out quickly and we even had to secure extra chairs on the night – as the British Council’s Shakespeare 400 programme suggested, it seems that “Shakespeare Lives…in Cork”!

The reading attracted a diverse audience which included the general public, as well as UCC staff and students of all levels. Cork is a designated UNESCO Learning City and both during and after the project, it was evident that the performance inspired an enthusiastic response from the city’s lifelong learners. The production was filmed and is available online here. A scholarly review of the production can be found on Dr Peter Kirwan’s Bardathon blog.

In addition to the IRC New Foundations funding, the project was also supported by UCC’s CACSSS Graduate School, the UCC Information Services Strategic Fund, and UCC’s School of English. This group of supporters were invaluable when it came to organising the symposium/graduate masterclass which explored Pericles, its sources, and critical and performative history, as well as issues relevant to the plot. With papers that addressed a wide range of topics including Old English, Middle English, neo-Latin, Shakespearean drama, gender studies, and Shakespeare on film, the interdisciplinary symposium explored and enhanced our understanding of Shakespeare, his influences, and his place in the literary canon.

Pericles 2016 - Dr Peter Kirwan speaking at IRC funded symposium.jpg

Dr Peter Kirwan speaking at the “Celebrating Shakespeare 400: Performing Pericles” symposium in November 2016. 

The keynote public lecture, delivered by Dr Peter Kirwan (University of Nottingham), gave a rare insight into the herculean task of editing Pericles. The symposium concluded with a convivial roundtable on the performance of Pericles, involving the director, actors, and myself as project leader. Full details on the symposium’s schedule can be found here.

Report by Dr Edel Semple.

CFP: Borderlines XXI in UCC

University College Cork will host Borderlines XXI in April 2017. The theme of this year’s conference is “Authority in the Medieval and Early Modern World”.

Postgraduates and early career scholars are most welcome to submit an abstract and attend this annual Medieval-Renaissance conference. The Call For Papers has been launched (see below) and the deadline for submission of abstracts is 3rd February 2017.

For updates and further details, see the Borderlines XXI blog here.


“Celebrating Shakespeare 400: Performing Pericles, Prince of Tyre” – reading and symposium in University College Cork 14th-15th November

This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and commemorations have been taking place around the world to mark the occasion. University College Cork will make a unique contribution to this commemorative programme through the “Celebrating Shakespeare 400: Performing Pericles, Prince of Tyre” project. Funded by the Irish Research Council New Foundations scheme, the project comprises a public staged reading of Shakespeare’s Pericles (c.1606) and a symposium exploring this critically-neglected play. Notably, as far as records can determine, the play reading will be only the second ever performance of Pericles in Ireland and the first in Munster.

Led by Dr Edel Semple, Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies in UCC’s School of English, the project involves actors from UCC’s Drama and Theatre Studies and the LittleShoes Productions drama group, as well as scholars from UCC, the UK and USA. The play reading is directed by Sinéad Dunphy, a UCC graduate and Festival Manager of the Cork International Choral Festival.


The staged reading is a free but ticketed event and takes place on Monday 14th at 6pm in the Unitarian Church, Princes Street, Cork. The symposium exploring the play’s sources and critical and performance history, will take place on Tuesday 15th November in UCC, and will conclude with a special public lecture by Dr. Peter Kirwan (University of Nottingham).

Overall “Celebrating Shakespeare 400: Performing Pericles, Prince of Tyre” will explore and enhance our understanding of Shakespeare’s drama, his sources, the world he lived in, and his legacy; introduce his late drama to new audiences; and will make a distinctive contribution to the year-long global celebrations of Shakespeare’s life and work in 2016. For further info, please see the School of English website and social media (@EnglishUCC), and for queries contact Dr Edel Semple (email

The “Celebrating Shakespeare 400: Performing Pericles, Prince of Tyre” project is funded by the Irish Research Council New Foundations scheme, with additional support from UCC’s CACSSS Graduate School, the UCC Information Services Strategic Fund, and the School of English, University College Cork. The project is also part of the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives programme for 2016.

Tickets for staged reading of Pericles on Eventbrite here.

A detailed schedule for the symposium / graduate masterclass is available from UCC CACSSS Graduate School here (see event listed for 14-15th Nov.)


The 1609 quarto of Pericles

Public lecture: “Shakespeare’s First Act” by Prof. Goran Stanivukovic at UCC, 18th Oct.

University College Cork’s School of English is delighted to host a special guest lecture by Prof. Goran Stanivukovic (Saint Mary’s University, Canada) on the topic of “Shakespeare’s First Act: literature, theatre, and the earliest years”. The lecture takes place on Tuesday 18th October, 6pm, in the beautiful surroundings of the Council Room on the Quad, University College Cork. All are welcome to attend.


The lecture will focus on Shakespeare’s ‘earliest’ Elizabethan years in London and will explore the theatrical, literary, and artistic conditions that shaped the critical perceptions of Shakespeare’s early works. Prof. Stanivukovic will seek to challenge the view of ‘earliest Shakespeare’ as a ‘young’ writer struggling to find his voice and as bound by rhetorical cliches, and will argue that Shakespeare produced some of the most avant-garde drama and innovative poetry of the late 1590s at just this ‘earliest’ stage of his creative life. Prof. Stanivukovic will further question how we think about what ‘young’, or ‘early’, and what these mean in our modern critical assessment of a literary career. The lecture forms part of the British Council’s “Shakespeare Lives” programme and is one of a series of events held in UCC to celebrate Shakespeare 400 this year.


Prof. Stanivukovic is Professor of English at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada. He is a distinguished scholar of English Renaissance literature and Cultural Studies, with research interests in Shakespeare and drama of his contemporaries, prose romance, queer theory, masculinity, neo-classicism of the Renaissance, and the Renaissance Mediterranean. He has edited Remapping the Mediterranean World in Early Modern English Writings (Palgrave, 2007), Ovid and the Renaissance Body (University of Toronto Press, 2001), and with Constance C. Relihan, Prose Fiction and Early Modern Sexualities in England, 1570-1640 (Palgrave, 2003). His most recent monograph is Knights in Arms: Prose Romance, Masculinity, and Eastern Mediterranean Trade (University of Toronto Press, 2015).


Culture Night: Shakespeare’s Sources & the Boole Library’s Resources

[A repost of this guest post by our own Dr Edel Semple for The River-side blog of UCC Library’s Special Collections, Archives, and Repository Services.]

The River-side welcomes this guest post from Dr Edel Semple, School of English on her experience using items from Special Collections’ early modern books collections in her Culture Night talk ‘Shakespeare’s Sources and Boole Library’s Resources.’ Shakespeare’s Sources and Boole … Continue reading [see link below] →

Source: Culture Night: Shakespeare’s Sources & the Boole Library’s Resources

Review: Romeo and Juliet presented by the Cork Shakespearean Company

Guest post by David Roy.

A little after 8pm on May 5th the doors opened and a bell was rung to urge the audience to bring their drinks and conversations out of the foyer and into the theatre. As I entered the Cork Arts Theatre for the first time and attempted to find my allocated seat, I noticed two things: how lovely and quaint the theatre was, and the melancholy figure that was being struck on the stage. The Chorus (Meghan Buckley) sat patiently, on what was to be Juliet’s bed and later her resting place in “Capels’ monument” (5.1.18), silently biding her time. When she delivered the prologue, it was slow and calculated. Her haunting presence, her positioning on Juliet’s bed, the words she spoke and the way she delivered them all worked together to foreshadow the tragic events that we knew would follow.

Founded by the late Father J. C. O’Flynn in 1924, the Cork Shakespearean Company are an amateur company that focus almost exclusively on the works of William Shakespeare. They meet every Thursday night and put on two performances a year – the last being King Lear at the Unitarian Church in Cork in 2015 (see review by Edel Semple). “Initially, classes took place in the presbytery of the North Chapel before moving to the loft of Linehan’s Sweet Factory on John Redmond Street for 75 years” (Irish Examiner, 23 April 2014). The company currently meets at Eason’s Hill Community Centre in Cork City. In 2014, to celebrate their 90th anniversary, the Cork Shakespearean Company organised rehearsed readings of all of Shakespeare’s works, including his poetry, which they performed over a twelve hour period in various venues around Cork City. For this event, there was a particular emphasis on the idea that every word should be recited within that twelve hour window; this is an ethos that is continued in their performance of Romeo and Juliet, in which they remain as true to the text as possible – the one exception being the removal of Friar Laurence from the final scene, as will be discussed below.

Cork Shakespearean Company - plaque

Returning to the prologue for a moment, I have always been curious about the assertion that the play is going to be “the two hours’ traffic of our stage” (l.12). Given that the Cork Shakespearean Company’s production ran in at about 160 minutes – which is not all that unusual, with the Globe’s 2009 production (directed by Dominic Dromgoole) coming in at 172 minutes – I have often wondered if the discrepancy between the promised and actual length of the play is down to the speed at which lines are delivered. In an interview that he gave to The Guardian on 21 November 2015, Mark Rylance argues that “Shakespeare intended his plays to be delivered with fast-paced emotion and slowing them down is the same as taking away speed from today’s rap music”. Laying the problems with claiming an understanding of authorial intention aside, it is at least plausible that the speed at which the lines are delivered is slower now than when this work was first performed. There were times in this performance where this seemed to have been the case, but never to the detriment of emotion in the scene. In fact, in the scene where Juliet refuses to marry Paris, it is the slowing of Capulet’s (Nate Jordan) speech that adds to the emotion. During this scene, Capulet’s words were punctuated by acts of violence towards Lady Capulet and Juliet – he slapped Lady Capulet, and then threw Juliet to the ground.

All of the actors performed well, but there were two standout performances: Mercutio (Timothy Barry) and the Nurse (Áine O’Leary). Barry’s Mercutio was less playful than some have imagined him to be in his earlier exchanges with Romeo and Benvolio; even from his first exchanges he seemed to be discontented and impatient. When he ranted on, in 1.4.51-93, about Queen Mab he seemed to become more and more introverted, until Romeo stopped him and chided that “[he] talk’st of nothing” (1.4.94). The novelty of Barry’s Mercutio in this scene was in his detachment from the world around him; he neither addressed his companions on the stage or the audience; he just rambled on to himself. In this performance, Mercutio was about the same age as Romeo, so there was not so much a sense that he is weary of the world; rather, he was portrayed as being introspective and brooding. When the encounter finally occurred between Mercutio and Tybalt, both characters were portrayed as being equally ill tempered and brash. Mercutio’s jest about being found “a grave man” (3.1.93), after he has been stabbed, was spat out sarcastically before he was escorted from the stage to die, repeating the line “[a] plague on both your houses!” (3.1.106). O’Leary’s Nurse, on the other hand, was true to her comic nature. This was nowhere more evident than when she discussed Juliet’s age with Lady Capulet. Similar to Mercutio’s speech about Queen Mab, the Nurse also goes on and on until Lady Capulet interjects: “Enough of this, I pray thee, hold thy peace” (1.3.51). However, the delivery of the lines could not have been more different. Even though the Nurse spoke about the death of her own daughter, she did not drift away like Mercutio; rather, she came across as a chatterbox that would just keep going if she was unchecked. This perception was engendered through her engagement with the audience while she delivered these lines. The result was that she came across as being far more playful and jovial than Mercutio.

As with the text, the play was set in Verona. The company also chose to adopt renaissance style costumes, indicative of the perceived time period during which these events were to unfold. The set was made up of the main stage, an upper stage with stairs on either side leading up to a door, what was to be Juliet’s bed (which was slid underneath the upper stage), and a portable door that was brought out on stage to signify entry into Friar Laurence’s church. The two houses of Capulet and Montague were not identified as much by what they were wearing, as where they were on the stage. Generally, when both houses were on the stage, the Capulets were to the left and the Montagues to the right. The sparseness of the set stripped away all distraction, resulting in a focus on the words being spoken. Thus the beauty of the text was given primacy throughout.

The greatest amendment to the text occurs in the final scene with the exclusion of Friar Laurence (Mike Keep), who doesn’t ever make it down to Capulet’s monument. One of the consequences of this exclusion is that there is no delay between the waking of Juliet and her discovery of Romeo. In this instance, Juliet (Leah Wood) rises from her slumber as Romeo (Paddy O’Leary) kisses her and dies. Her discovery of Romeo is thus instantaneous and the immediacy of loss is more poignant. Another consequence of omitting Friar Laurence from this final scene is that he is not there to explain the intricacies of what has happened to the Prince (Aiden Hegarty); the horror of the scene is left to explain itself. It is thus the horror of the scene that results in the reconciliation of the two houses at the conclusion of the play.

There was one minor hiccup on the night. Following the sudden illness of the actress playing Juliet, Leah Wood was asked to step in as a replacement at the last minute. With such short notice, Ms Wood was unable to learn all of the lines and there were times when she had to read the script. The reading of the text became a little awkward in 3.2.75-9, where the play texts punctuation was lost, nullifying the opposites that are being emphasised. “Beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical, / Dove-feathered raven…” became “Beautiful, tyrant, fiend, angelical, / Dove-feathered, raven…”, thus neutralising Juliet’s inner conflict. Yet, this was the only lapse in what was otherwise a solid performance. Ms Wood even went without the script for the scenes where Juliet first meets Romeo (1. 4) and when Juliet discovers Romeo dead and kills herself (5. 3). The removal of the script for these scenes allowed for more physicality in the interactions between Juliet and the other characters, which is needed when Romeo and Juliet first fall in love, as well as when they consummate that love in death.

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable staging of Romeo and Juliet. The smaller venue created a sense of intimacy throughout. During the fight scenes I almost felt like I was thrust into the fray, and, when the players stepped to the front of the stage to deliver their soliloquies, it felt like I could reach out and touch them. But the real success on the night was the way the Cork Shakespearean Company brought the text to life.

Reviewed by David Roy, PhD candidate in the School of English, UCC.