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On Frank McGuinness

Written by Jessica Traynor, Literary Manager of the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland.

“Frank McGuinness is a playwright of whom Donegal and its people can be truly proud. His work enshrines the Donegal people and landscape at the heart of some of the most vital Irish drama of the past thirty years.”

Hailing from Buncrana, Frank McGuinness is one of Ireland’s foremost playwrights. Frank’s work includes both original plays and adaptations, and engages with themes as various as both World Wars, Ulster loyalism, sectarian violence, the rights of women, the shifting sands of memory, the battleground of family life, and his beloved Donegal.

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His first major success was ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’, produced on the Peacock stage in 1985, and for which he was awarded the London Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright. A passionate and ground-breaking play, it takes as its subject matter a group of young soldiers and their physical and spiritual journey towards the Somme, a cataclysmic event which took place on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. The play deals with the forging of a new loyalism in the fires of World War I, and also explores the deep bonds between the men which encompass both love and violence.

Recent plays have included ‘Greta Garbo Came to Donegal’, which looks at the unexpected arrival of the mysterious, elegant and incisive Garbo, just as the civil rights movement in the North begins to gather momentum, and ‘The Hanging Gardens.’ The latter again takes Donegal as its setting, with its protagonist, a novelist slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s, facing a reunion with his divided and competitive family. Themes of memory, history, and patriarchal control are explored in a play both elegiac and savage.

McGuinness has also adapted many classic plays with much success. In 1997, his adaptation of Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ won him a Tony Award, and his 2010 adaptation of that playwright’s ‘John Gabriel Borkman’, starring Alan Rickman, Lindsay Duncan and Fiona Shaw, toured from the Abbey to BAM in New York. His adaptation of James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ delighted Abbey audiences at Christmas 2012. McGuinness’s adaptations demonstrate his keen psychological insight into some of the most intriguing characters of the Irish, European and classical canon, while maintaining the stark lyricism of his own theatrical idiom.

Frank McGuinness is a playwright of whom Donegal and its people can be truly proud. His work enshrines the Donegal people and landscape at the heart of some of the most vital Irish drama of the past thirty years.

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Our next Frank McGuinness play is the Abbey Theatre’s production of Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme, produced to co-incide with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme
Presented by Abbey Theatre, Headlong, Citizens Theatre, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. Co-presented by the Lyric Theatre.
Friday 29 and Saturday 30 July 2016 at 8pm
Tickets: €25/€20
Book now!