Thomas Kilroy

1934- ; b. 23 Sept., Green St., Callan, Co. Kilkenny; son of Garda Siochána; ed. Christian Brothers, Callan, St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny; BA in English at University College, Cork, 1956; ; H.Dip. in Education, 1957, and MA in English, (“Satirical Elements in the Prose of Thomas Nashe”, UCD 1959); appt. headmaster of Stratford College, Dublin, 1959-64; commenced writing theatre criticism, Dublin 1959, and issued “Groundwork for an Irish Theatre”, in Studies (Summer 1959) - eliciting the challenge from Gabriel Fallon to become a ‘startingly good Irish dramatist’; served as visiting professor University of Notre Dame, 1962-63, and at Vanderbilt University, 1964-65; appt. asst. lecturer at UCD, 1965-73; appt. lecturer School of Irish Studies, Dublin, 1972-73; appt. visiting professor at Sir George Williams University and McGill University, 1973; taught at Dartmouth College, 1976, at UCD, 1977-78, at Thomond College, Limerick, 1983 and at Bamburg University, 1984; appt. Prof. of English at UCG, 1975-76, and 1977-89;
wrote a prize-winning radio play for BBC, 1967; shortlisted for Booker Prize, and winner of Guardian Fiction Prize, 1971; Royal Academy of Letters/Allied Irish Banks Award, and Royal Soc. for Literary Heinemann Award, 1972; Irish Academy Prize, 1972; Irish-American Foundation Award, 1974; Arts Council Bursary, 1976; ed. Synge Centenary Papers with Maurice Harmon (1972); ed., Sean O’Casey (1975); plays, The Door (1967); wrote The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche (1968), dealing with homosexuality of the title-character; staged successfully at the Olympia during the Dublin Theatre Festival, and afterwards in London; The Big Chapel (1971), an analytical novel on an attempt to introduce State education in nineteenth-century Ireland - a subject based on events in Callan, Co. Kilkenny, previously treated by Francis MacManus in The Greatest of These (1943); issued The O’Neill (Peacock 1969), historical play about the Earl of Tyrone;
Tea, Sex ad Shakespeare (Abbey 1976), centred on the writer O’Brien - played by Donal McCann - whose imagination runs wild; his play Talbot’s Box (1977), on Matt Talbot, was ‘about aloneness, its cost to the person, and the kind of courage required to sustain it’, acc. Kilroy; conceived for as taking place in a ‘huge box occupying virtually the whole stage’, it was successfully dir. by Patrick Mason at the Peacock and later at the Royal Court; awarded FRSL & MIAL, 1973; issued adaptation of The Seagull (London Royal Court 1981), directed by Max Stafford-Clark, transposing the Russian characters to the west of Ireland; successful revival of Talbot’s Box, produced by Rough Magic, 1984 (at TCD Players Th.); That Man, Bracken (BBC3 1986);
wrote Double Cross (Abbey, 3 Feb. 1986), dir. Jim Sheridan and dealing with William Joyce and Brendan Bracken, both characters being played by Stephen Rea of Field Day Theatre Company; moved to Royal Court, London; appt. Prof. Mod. English UCG, 1978-89; Field Day Director 1988; Dublin revival of Tea and Sex and Shakespeare (Rough Magic 1988), dir. Declan Hughes; resigned from UCG to write, 1989; issued an adaptation of Ibsen’s Ghosts (Peacock 1989); wrote Madam MacAdam’s Travelling Circus (1991), a farce, produced by Field Day Co. which however failed on stage; made a version of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author (Abbey May 1996);
wrote The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde (Abbey, Oct. 1997), dir. Patrick Mason with Jane Brennan as Constance, Robert O’Mahony as Wilde and Andrew Scott as Bosie; lives in Kilmaine, Co. Mayo; Council Member of IAL; member of Aosdana; gave an account of the inception of The Secret Fall in the Thomas Davis Lecture Series; Ghosts revived in 2002, and toured by Brown Penny productions; The Shape of Metal, premiered at Dublin Th. Fest (Oct., 2003), dealing with Nell Jeffrey, a sculptor, and her troubled relations with her daughters; My Scandalous Life (2005), the monologue of “Bosey” (Lord Alfred Douglas), given during World War II; issued Pirandellos (2008); received Irish Pen/AT Cross Lit. Award, Feb. 2008;

awarded emeritus status, UCG; premiered Christ Deliver Us! (Abbey Th., March 2010), a re-working of Wedekind’s Spring Awakening (1891), set in small-town Irish an industrial school in place of the military academy of the original; tells of teenage life in small-town Ireland, instilled with the atmosphere corporal punishment for the boys (Michael and Mossy) and a beatings by her father for a girl (Winnie - who dies alone in childbirth); played by Aaron Monaghan, Lawrence Kinlan and Aoife Duffin; gave a talk entitled “A Memoir of the Fifties”, inaugurating a lecture-series on the decade at TCD, 25 Jan. 2011; My Scandalous Life plays Irish Repertoire Theatre, New York (March 2011); Kilroy gave his papers to the Hardiman Library of Galway University (UCG/NUI) in March 2011l lectured on “The Intellectual on Stage” for NDU Irish Summer School on evening of 14 June in O’Connell House, 58 Merrion Sq., Dublin. DIW DIL/2 FDA OCIL

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  • The Big Chapel (London: Faber & Faber 1971), 254pp., Do. [rep. edn.] (London: Pan Books 1973), 232pp.; Do . (Dublin: Poolbeg [1983]), 254pp.; and Do. [rep. edn.] (Dublin: Liberties Press 2009), 254pp.
Plays (publication)
  • The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche (London: Faber & Faber; NY: Grove Press 1968), and Do . [rep. edn] (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2002), 81pp.;
  • The O’Neill (Peacock 1969; Gallery Books 1995), 80pp.;
  • Tea, Sex and Shakespeare (Oldcastle: Gallery Books 1998), 75pp. [rev. edn.];
  • Talbot’s Box (Dublin: Gallery; Newark, Del.: Proscenium 1979), Do . [rep. edn.] (Dublin: Gallery Books 1997; Dufour Edns. 1998), 63pp.;
  • The Seagull: A New Version, intro. R. Ritchie (London: Eyre Methuen 1981, 1993);
  • Double Cross (London: Faber & Faber 1986; Gallery Books 1994, 1996), 90[88]pp.;
  • The Madam MacAdam Travelling Theatre (London: Methuen 1992);
  • The Seagull (Oldcastle, Co. Meath: Gallery Books 1993);
  • The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 1997);
  • The Shape of Metal (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2003), 64pp.;
  • My Scandalous Life (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2005), 38pp.;
  • Pirandellos (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2007), 128pp. [versions of “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and “Henry IV”].
  • Christ Deliver Us! (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2010), 66pp.
Drama for radio
  • The Door (BBC4, 27 Oct. 1967).
  • That Man Bracken BBC3, 20 June, 1986).
  • The Colleen and the Cowboy, prod. by Kate Minogue (RTÉ, 11. Sept. 2005).
Drama for TV
  • Farmers (RTÉ, 1978) [q.d.].
  • Gold in the Streets (1993).
  • The Black Joker (q.d.).
  • “The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde”, in New Plays from the Abbey Theatre, Vol 2: 1996-1998, ed. & intro., Judy Friel & Sanford Sternlicht (Syracuse UP 2001) [with plays of Michael Harding, Alex Johnston and Marina Carr].
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In translation
  • Alexandra Poulain, trans., Double jeu [Double Cross] (Paris: A. Poulain 1996), 68pp. [TCD Lib.].
  • Illusions comiques à l’irlandaise [Litt. étrangères/Domaine irlandais] (Presses universitaires du septentrion, [1998]), 145pp. [“Tea, Sex and Shakespeare”; “The Madame MacAdam Travelling Theatre”].
Criticism & Articles
  • ‘Mervyn Wall: The Demands of Satire’, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review of Letters, Philosophy and Science, 47 (Spring 1958), pp.83-89.
  • Review of Plays of the Year, chosen by J. C. Trewin, and The Hostage by Brendan Behan, in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, 48 (Spring 1959), pp.111-13.
  • ‘Groundwork for an Irish Theatre’, in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, 48 (Summer 1959), pp.192-98 [see extract].
  • ‘Reading and Teaching the Novel’, in Studies: an Irish Quarterly Review, 56 (Winter 1967), pp.356-57.
  • Review of Reilly, poems by Desmond O’Grady, in Studies, 51 (Spring 1962), pp.184-86.
  • ‘Young Magdalen and the Pharisee’, in Threshold, XVII (Belfast 1962), pp.62-74.
  • Review of W . B. Yeats and the Theatre of Desolate Reality by D. R. Clark, and In Defense of Lady Gregory by Ann Saddlemyer, in Studies, 55 (Winter 1966), pp.441-43.
  • Review of Like Any Other Man by Patrick Boyle, in University Review, 4 (Spring 1967), pp.91-92; ‘Reading and Teaching the Novel’, in Studies, 56 (Winter 1967), pp.356-67.
  • ‘Fiction 1967’, in University Review, 5 (Spring 1968), pp.112-17.
  • ‘The Playboy as Poet’, in PMLA, LXXXIII (May 1968), pp.439-42.
  • Review of Sean O’Faolain: A Critical Introduction by Maurice Harmon, in Dublin Magazine, 7 (Autumn-Winter 1968), pp.98-100.
  • ‘The Outsider’ [on Synge], in The Irish Times (16 April 1971), p.8.
  • ‘Tellers of Tales’, in Times Literary Supplement (March 1972), pp.301-302.
  • ‘Synge and Modernism’, in J. M. Synge Centenary Papers 1971, ed. Maurice Harmon (Dublin: Dolmen 1972), pp.167-79.
  • ‘Synge the Dramatist’, in Mosaic, 5.1 (1972), pp.9-16.
  • ed., Sean O’Casey: A Collection of Critical Essays (NJ: Prentice-Hall 1975), ix, 174pp.
  • ‘The Writer’s Group in Galway’, in The Irish Times (8 April 1976).
  • ‘Two Playwrights: Yeats and Beckett’, in Myth and Reality in Irish Literature, ed. Joseph Ronsley (Toronto: Wilfrid Laurier UP 1977), pp.183-95.
  • ‘Anglo-Irish Playwrights and the Comic Tradition’, in Crane Bag, 3 (Dublin 1979), pp.19-17.
  • The Moon in the Yellow River: Denis Johnston’s Shavianism’, in Denis Johnston: A Retrospective, ed. Joseph Ronsley (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1981), pp.49-58.
  • ‘The Irish Writer: Self and Society, 1950-1980’, in Literature and the Changing Ireland, ed. Peter Connolly (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), pp.175-87.
  • ‘The Anglo-Irish’, in The Irish Times (7 December 1983) [q.p.].
  • ‘Brecht, Beckett, and Williams’, in Sagetrieb: A Journal to Poets in the Pound - H.D. - Williams Tradition, 3 (Fall 1984), pp.81-87.
  • ‘Goldsmith the Playwright’, in Goldsmith: The Gentle Master, ed. Seán Lucy (Cork UP 1984), pp.66-77.
  • ‘The Autobiographical Novel’, in The Genius of Irish Prose, ed. Augustine Martin (Dublin: Mercier 1985), pp. 67-75.
  • ‘Ireland’s Pseudo-Englishman’, in Magill, 11.5 (January 1988), pp.52-54.
  • ‘J. M. Synge: The Complex Creator of a Closed World’ in “Reassessment” [column], The Irish Times (19 April 1989).
  • ‘Secularised Ireland’, in Culture in Ireland, Diversity or Division, ed. Edna Longley [Proceedings of the Cultures of Ireland Group Conference] (QUB: Inst. of Irish Studies 1991), [q.pp.].
  • ‘A Generation of Playwrights’, in Irish University Review, 22, 1 (Spring 1992), pp.135-41 [available at JSTOR Ireland online; accessed 27.06.2011.
  • ‘Theatrical Text and Literary Text’, in The Achievement of Brian Friel, ed. Alan Peacock (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1993), pp.91-102.
  • ‘Some Irish Poems of Yeats’, in Eibei-Bungaku [Koka Women’s University] 11, 3 (March 1994), pp.41-43.
  • ‘Chekhov and the Irish’, Frank McGuinness, Uncle Vanya (Guild Hall, Derry: Field Day Company: March 1995).
  • John Bull’s Other Island: Shaw’s Irish Play’, in Banado Sho Kenkyu, 3 [11, 1] (1995), pp.1-20.
  • ‘The Literary Tradition of Irish Drama’, in Anglistentag 1994 graz: Proceedings, ed. W. Rioehle, H. Keiper, et al. (Tübingen: Niemeyer 1995), pp.7-15.
  • ‘From Page to Stage’, in Irish Writers and Their Creative Process, ed. Jacqueline Genet & Wynne Hellegouarc’h (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1996), pp.55-62.
  • ‘The Anglo-Irish Theatrical Imagination’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, 3, 2 (Winter 1997/Spring 1998), pp.5-11.
  • ‘Friendship’, in Irish University Review, 29, 1 (Spring-Summer 1999), pp.83-89.
  • ‘The Seagull: An Adaptation’. in The Cambridge Companion to Chekhov, ed. Vera Gottlieg & Paul Allain (Cambridge UP 2000), pp.80-90.
  • ‘A Generation of Playwrights’, in Theatre Stuff: Critical Essays on Contemporary Irish Theatre, ed. Eamonn Jordan (Dublin: Carysfort Press 2000), pp.1-7 [prev. pub. in 1992].
  • ‘The Wildean Triangle: What Revels Are in Hand?’, in Assessment of Contemporary Drama in English in Honor of W. Lippke, ed. B. Reitz & H. Stahl [CDE Studies] (8 Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag 2001), pp.47-55.
  • ‘A Young Girl Before the King’ [review of The Burial at Thebes], in The Irish Times (10 April 2004) [see extract].
  • [Q. tit.] contrib. to Patrick Burke, ed., Mirror up to Nature: The Fourth Seamus Heaney Lectures (Dublin: Carysfort Press 2010), 109pp. [on theatre, with Cecily O’Neill, Patrick Mason, et al.].
  • ‘Our great teller of the short story’, review of Saints and Sinners by Edna O&146;Brien, in The Irish Times (12 Feb. 2011), Weekend Review, p.11 [see under O’Brien, infra].
  • ‘The Trials of Constance Wilde’, review of Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde, by Franny Moyle, in The Irish Times (18 June 2011), Weekend, p.10 [available online].
  • ‘In Celebration of a Friend’, in “Friel at 80” [section], The Irish Times (Monday 27 June 2011) [available online].

[ See Wikipedia listing online. ]

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  • Thierry Dubost, The Plays of Thomas Kilroy: A Critical Study (London: McFarland 2007), xi, 204pp. [prev. as Le théatre de Thomas Kilroy (Caen: Presses universitaires de Caen, 2001, 107pp.) [incls. interviews with (Lynn Parker, Max Stafford-Clark, Patrick Mason, A. S. Paul].
  •  Guy Woodward, ed., Talking about Thomas Kilroy (Dublin: Carysfort Press 2015) [includes essays by Anthony Roche, Nicky Grene and Peter Fallon with roundtables chaired by Christina Hunt Mahoney and Emer O’Kelly and an essay by Kilroy intitled ‘The Intelectual on Stage’ and an interview with Adrian Frazier].
  • José Lanters, The Theatre of Thomas Kilroy: No Absolutes (Cork UP 2018), 288pp. [noted for its study of draft versions of plays];
  • Maurice Harmon, ‘By Memory Inspired: Themes and Forces in Recent Irish Writing’, in Eire-Ireland, VIII, 2 (Summer 1973), pp.3-16.
  • Brian Cosgrove, ‘Ego Contra Mundum: Thomas Kilroy’s The Big Chapel ’, in Patrick Rafroidi & Maurice Harmon, eds., The Irish Novel in Our Time [Cahiers Irlandaises, 4-5] (Université de Lille 1976), pp.297-309.
  • K. Kimball, ‘Thomas Kilroy’, in Ten Modern Playwrights, A Bibliography (NY: Garland Press 1979) [q.pp.]; Christopher Murray, ‘Thomas Kilroy, Contemporary Irish Writers, 5’, in Ireland Today (Dublin: Dept. Foreign Affairs 1982).
  • G. A. Barnett, ‘Thomas Kilroy’, in James Vinson, ed., Contemporary Dramatists (London: Macmillan 1982) [q.pp.].
  • Gerald Dawe, ‘Thomas Kilroy’, in Theatre Ireland, 3 (June-Sept. 1983), pp.117-18.
  • Anthony Roche, ‘The Fortunate Fall, Two Plays of Thomas Kilroy’, in Maurice Harmon, ed., The Writer and the City (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1984), pp. 159-68.
  • Benedict Kiely, ‘The Historical Novel’ in Augustine Martin, ed., The Genius of Irish Prose (Cork: Mercier 1985), pp.53-66 [espec. pp.65].
  • Frank McGuinness, ‘A Haunted House, The Theatre of Thomas Kilroy’, in Barbara Hayley & W. Rix, eds., Irish Theatre Today (Wurtzburg 1985) [q.pp.].
  • Ray Comisky, ‘Searching for a Meaning on Treason’, in The Irish Times (January 31, 1986), pp.12.
  • Patrick Burke, ‘Thomas Kilroy’s Latest and Rough Magic’, in Irish Literary Supplement, 7 (Fall 1988), p.15.
  • Maurice Etherton, Contemporary Irish Dramatists (London: Macmillan 1989), pp.51-62.
  • Anthony Roche, ‘Thomas Kilroy’, in Post-War Literature in English, ed., Joris Duytschaeuer, et al. (Groningen 1990) [q.pp.]
  • Frank McGuinness, ‘A Voice from the Trees, Thomas Kilroy’s Version of Chekhov’s The Seagull ’, in Irish University Review (Spring-Summer 1991), pp.3-14.
  • Barbara Hayley, ‘Self-Denial and Self-Assertion in Some Plays of Thomas Kilroy: The Madam MacAdam Travelling Theatre ’, in Jacqueline Genet & Elisabeth Hellegourarc’h, eds., Studies on the Contemporary Irish Theatre: Actes du Colloque de Caen (Caen: Université de Caen 1991) [q.pp.].
  • Frank McGuinness. ‘A Voice from the Trees: Thomas Kilroy’s Version of Chekhov’s The Seagull ’, in Irish University Review, 21 (Spring-Summer 1991), pp.3-14.
  • Anthony Roche, ‘Kilroy’s Doubles’, in Contemporary Irish Drama From Beckett to McGuinness (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1995), pp.189-215.
  • Mary Trotter, ‘“Double Crossing” Irish Borders: The Field Day Production of Tom Kilroy’s Double Cross ’, in New Hibernia Review, 1, 1 (Spring 1997), p.31-43.
  • Nina Witszek, The Theatre of Recollection: A Cultural Study of Modern Dramatic Tradition in Ireland and Poland (Stockholm UP 1988) [q.pp.].
  • [q.a.,] interview with Tom Kilroy, in Gerald Dawe & Jonathan Williams [assoc. ed.], eds., Krino 1986-1996: An Anthology of Irish Writing (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1996), [q.p.].
  • [...].
  • Phil Dunne, ‘An Uncluttered Window on Irish Life: The Work of Thomas Kilroy’, in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review (Summer 2000), 140-47 [available at JSTOR online].
  • Gerry Dukes [interview], in Theatre Talk: Voices of Irish Theatre Practitioners, ed. Lilian Chambers, Ger Fitzgibbon, Eamonn Jordan, et al. (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2001), pp.240-51.
  • Anthony Roche, ed., Irish University Review, 32, 1 [“Thomas Kilroy Special Issue”] (Spring 2002), 214pp. [see contents].
  • Fintan O’Toole, ‘We Live in the 19th Century as Well as the 21st’ [in “Culture Shock” column], in The Irish Times (6 March 2010), Weekend, p.8 [on Kilroy and Tom Murphy; see extract].
  • Declan Hughes, ‘Visceral Force and Haunting Lyric Beauty’, in The Irish Times (Wed. 27 April 2011) [see extract].
  • Aidan O’Malley, Field Day and the Translation of Irish Identities: Performing Contradictions (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2011) - on Kilroy: Double Cross (pp. 143-56), The Madame MacAdam Travelling Theatre (pp. 163-72).
  • Adrienne Leavy, interview with Thomas Kilroy, in Reading Ireland (Winter 2019), pp.17-26 [available online; accessed 03.01.2022].

See also D. E. S. Maxwell, A Critical History of modern Irish Drama 1891-1980 (Cambridge UP 1984), also John Haffenden, ed., Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation (Faber & Faber 1981) [incl. Heaney, Kinsella, Muldoon, Richard Murphy, Paulin, et. al.]

  • Leonard Robert Falkenstein, Renovating the kitchen: Irishness, nationalism, and form in the theatre of John B. Keane, Tom Murphy, Hugh Leonard, Brian Friel, and Thomas Kilroy [diss.] (Toronto UP 1997) [pub. by Canadian theses on microfiche] (Alberta UP 1997), 169[pp];
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Anthony Roche, ed., Irish University Review, 32, 1 [“Thomas Kilroy Special Issue”] (Spring 2002) - Contents
  • Anthony Roche, ‘Introduction ’ (pp.ix-x).
  • John Banville, ‘From Shroud [fiction extract]’ (pp.1-9).
  • Thierry Dubost, ‘Kilroy’s Theatre of the Conflicted Self’ (pp.10-17).
  • Anne Fogarty, ‘The Romance of History: Renegotiating the past in Thomas Kilroy’s The O’Neill and Brian Friel’s Making History’ (pp.18-32).
  • Gerald Dawe, ‘Thomas Kilroy’ (pp.33-38)
  • W. Nial Osborough, ‘Another Country, Other Days: Revisiting Thomas Kilroy’s The Big Chapel’ (pp.39-67).
  • Gerard Fanning, “The Railway Guard” (pp.68-69); “Searching for Paul Henry’s Sky” (p.69) [poems]
  • Nicholas Grene, ‘Staging the Self: Person and Persona in Kilroy’s Plays’ (pp.70-82)
    Christopher Murray, ‘Thomas Kilroy: The Artist and the Critic’ (pp.83-94)
  • Claire Keegan, ‘Salt: The Second Chapter [fiction extract]’ (pp.95-99).
  • Hiroko Mikami, ‘Kilroy’s Vision of Doubleness: The Question of National Identity and Theatricality in Double Cross’ (pp.100-09).
  • Martine Pelletier, ‘“Against Mindlessness”: Thomas Kilroy and Field Day’ (pp.110-125).
  • Anna McMullan, ‘Masculinity and Masquerade in Thomas Kilroy’s "Double Cross" and "The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde"’ (pp.126-36).
  • Patrick Mason, ‘Acting Out’ (pp.137-47).
  • Frank McGuinness, ‘The Doctor’s Daughter in Antwerp [poem]’ (pp.148-49).
  • Anthony Roche, ‘An Interview with Thomas Kilroy’ (pp.150-58).
  • Thomas Kilroy, ‘From Blake: A Play [extract]’ (pp.159-63).
  • Christopher Innes, ‘Immortal Eyes and Fearful Symmetry: Towards a Drama of Vision’ (pp.164-74).
  • David Wheatley, ‘Numerology [poem] (p.175).
  • Ophelia Byrne, ‘Thomas Kilroy: A Bibliography’ (pp.176-90).
Images for Kilroy [between pp.109-10]
  • Felim Egan, “Pointe”
  • Tony O’Malley, “Ahenny”
  • Barrie Cooke, “Lough Arrow Algae”; “Boat Landing I”
  • Sean McSweeney, “Shoreline Bog”
  • Camille Souter, “Near Arguata Scrivia”
  • Brian Bourke, “Thomas Kilroy”
Reviews incl. Martine Pelletier, review of Le Théatre de Thomas Kilroy, by Thierry Dubost (pp.196-98); Peter Costello, review of José Lanters, Unauthorised Versions: Irish Menippean Satires 1919-1952, et. al.
See issue at JSTOR - online.

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Eamon Kelly, reviewing Toby Corbett, Brian Friel: Decoding the Language of the Tribe, in Books Ireland (April 2003), pp.84-85: writes: ‘In a freely adapted version Kilroy examines the interactions between private and public lives, and between church and secular values. Ibsen’s original caused riots over a century ago. The furore was caused by a combination of the subject matter and the form we now know as realism. The play deals with such hair-raising matters as adultery, women’s rights, illegitimate children and venereal disease while abandoning certain accepted theatrical conventions. […] Essentially a study and critique of Catholic [sic] morality and immorality Ghosts transfers well to an Irish context. The questions it raises in Kilroy’s version may have seemed of marginal interest even on its first outing in 1989, perhaps then seen as more relevant to 1950s Ireland. But this was more than a decade before the clerical abuse scandals came to light. The latest production while being after the fact as it were is no less powerful as an analysis of how Irish social and political culture willingly surrendered its will to a church of men now shown to have not only feet of clay but extremely mucky boots. The figure of Father Manning now seems anachronistic when dishing out moral advice. The effect is to see the whole shape of the play twist and warp so that the solid ground of morality represented by the priest now seems morally defunct. / The shame that would earlier have accrued to the secular characters shifts to what was once the high moral ground. A good priest represented on the Irish stage saying all the things [84] a good priest should say now seems to have a oddly subversive effect. […]. Quotes Mrs Aylward in Kilroy’s version: ‘Do you know what I think is really ghostly in this life? Things inside ourselves that haunt us, stopping us from being fully alive … the place is full of haunted suffering people.’

Christina Hunt Mahony, ‘Memory & Belonging: Irish Writers, the Wireless and the Nation’ (2004): ‘Such is the case when Tom Kilroy, Murphy’s contemporary, makes radio central to and apparent in his theatrical undertaking in Double Cross where the range of wartime aural markers earlier noted by Heaney or come alive on the stage. Irishmen perdu Brendan Bracken, Winston Churchill’s Minister of Information, and William Joyce, who broadcast Nazi propaganda, forge new non-Irish identities for themselves, and issue and receive direct challenges to these identities on stage via the medium of radio. Here the cozy fireside implement that generously spilled language into Heaney’s straining ear is employed in its more serious role as news provider - and more ominously as purveyor of propaganda. Kilroy, old enough to remember Lord Haw Haw’s distinctive voice, explores the chimera of universality radio listeners thought they had experienced - thus two minor characters in the play, journalists, discuss the effect of radio listening -

ACTRESS: Each morning each person seemed to have a different story of what Lord Haw Haw had said the night before.
ACTOR: Two people in the same room before the same wireless would report two different versions of what had been heard.

This apt exchange contextualizes in an explicitly dangerous conjunction the essence of the medium in question - and that is its subjectivity. It is this high degree of aural subjectivity - a private communion within a public context - that lies at the heart of radio’s productive intrusion into the consciousness of this and subsequent generations of Irish writers. The play, not incidentally, also problematizes the concept of patriotism and its obverse treachery as subjective matters.’ (Q.p.; see pre-print version in RICORSO Library > Criticism > Monographs - as attached).


Brian Friel, on The Big Chapel in ‘Back Due to Demand’ [column] in The Guardian (3 May 2008): ‘Thomas Kilroy’s The Big Chapel (1971) is an important novel, a prickly story, an angry story. As in all his angular plays, the people in this novel have their home - a term they wouldn’t be fully at ease with - in the margins. They are not of the centre, of the consensus. But they are not a marginalised people: the margins are their centre. And they inhabit the margins because, as Denis Donoghue says, “the margins is the place for those feelings and intuitions that daily life doesn’t have a place for and mostly seems to suppress. And the most important intuition is of mystery.’ Or, as Flannery O’Connor said, “Fiction is concerned with mystery that is lived; the ultimate mystery as we find it embodied in the concrete world of sense experience.” / And now The Big Chapel has a chance to come back to full life after 30 years of catalepsy. The Red Priest will thunder again. The big chapel will be desecrated. The Master will be felled. And the mystery life of its people, agitated and baffled by an unease just that bit beyond their comprehension and control, will unfold again as if for the first time. And the novel will be acclaimed and garlanded again. But what will keep it permanently vital will be the response it evokes once more from its astonished and grateful readers.’

Fintan O’Toole, [“Culture Shock”], in The Irish Times (6 March 2010), Weekend, p.8: ‘ We live in the 19th century as well as the 21st’: ‘[...] In [...] Christ Deliver Us!, it makes particular sense that the play is essentially about ignorance. Its central concern - and Kilroy makes this even more explicit than Wedekind does - is with the gap between what the body knows, its urges and demands, and what the repressed mind can process and articulate. The wellspring of the entire tragedy is a simple act of explanation. Michael explains the facts of life to his friend Mossy in written words and drawings. This basic act of enlightenment sets in motion a wave of tragedies. Explicit knowledge is as dangerous here as it is in the Garden of Eden. / Kilroy locates this basic story brilliantly within a recognisable 1950s provincial Ireland, capturing the speech and manners of the period. But it unfolds more profoundly within the memory of that period, the bitter afterlife of its class distinctions, its industrial schools and Magdalen homes. If the play feels ghostly, it is because it is not essentially about a socially realistic 1950s but about our present need to confront the psychic legacy of the culture that was at its height in that decade. / And in this regard, a play about ignorance is entirely relevant to our present condition. The key psychological question of the Celtic Tiger years is the same as the one that hovers around the industrial schools: our collective ability to both know and not know. We knew that the industrial schools were institutions of organised cruelty but somehow remained detached from this knowledge. And we knew that much of boomtime Ireland was delusional, but allowed this knowledge to remain entirely inert. We do not have the luxury of looking with smug disdain on the wilful ignorance that Kilroy anatomises. / The remarkable thing is not that veterans like Murphy and Kilroy approach the present though the past. It is that they remain interested in that past, not for its own sake, but in relation to the way it has shaped our present world. The only difference is that they see boomtime Ireland, not as a sealed-off chamber of contemporary meanings, but as a trophy house haunted by its unacknowledged memories.’ [End.]

Declan Hughes, ‘Visceral Force and Haunting Lyric Beauty’, in The Irish Times (Wed. 27 April 2011): ‘[...] Kilroy is not so much an Irish playwright as a playwright who happens to be Irish. You could say that Talbot’s Box is one of the great masterpieces of modern theatre, and happily we were not so hypnotised by theory or ideology that we couldn’t see this. I wouldn’t disagree on either count. But the play explores similar thematic terrain to many I had deemed beyond the pale. Moreover, at its centre stands Matt Talbot, Dublin labouring-man and penitential Catholic mystic – hardly a totem for metropolitan youth with “something to say”. / But that was just it. At some unconscious level, we must have understood that it ain’t what you say but the way that you say it. The sheer theatricality of Talbot’s Box was unusual, perhaps unprecedented, on an Irish stage. [...] The stage directions stipulate that the playing area be encased in a box made of timbers with slots through which light can shine out. We built the box, and the tiny Players’ Theatre in House No. 3 at Trinity College Dublin smelt of pine, resin and sap. It seemed to me then, and it seems to me now, that we were building far more than just the set for a play. Talbot’s Box had the overwhelming effect on me that great art is supposed to have: it changed irrevocably the way I felt about 1) theatre; and 2) everything else. It is long overdue a revival.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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‘Groundwork for an Irish Theatre’, in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review (Summer 1959): ‘In our search for a new Irish theatre we are probably looking for premises with a clear view from every window. Too often the view from our modern Irish windows is cluttered-up with distracting monuments to the dead and glorious past of politics and art. If we ever do come to house a creative theatre for a new generation, many of these idols will have to be demolished so that the interesting new faces of modern Ireland may crowd at every window in the theatre. ’ In the ensuing, Kilroy writes that ‘during the past twenty five years few Irish dramatist have been in any way exciting technically ’ and offers a framework for ‘a creative theatre for a new generation. ’ In the following issue, Gabriel Fallon caustically responded: ‘Possibly the best way in which Mr. Kilroy could bring this about, (i.e., a new Irish Theatre), would be for him to become in the shortest time possible a startingly good Irish dramatist. ’ Fallon later greeted Talbot ’s Box as ‘deeply moving ’. (See Phil Dunne, ‘An Uncluttered Window on Irish Life: The Work of Thomas Kilroy’, in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Summer 2000, p.140; available at JSTOR Ireland, online; accessed 27.06.2011.)

Secularised Ireland’, in Culture in Ireland, Diversity or Division, ed. Edna Longley [Proceedings of the Cultures of Ireland Group Conference] (QUB: Inst. of Irish Studies 1991), pp.135-141: Kilroy speaks of the breath of English-language influences, including (besides England), America, Australasia, Caribbean and Nigeria. [87] In his address on ‘Secularised Ireland’, he remarks the following [inter alia}: ‘a kind of modality of fear at the root of Irish culture, a kind of timidity before life itself in all its mortal glory and all its dreadful horror, its inexpressible variety [...] the peculiar nature of the fear I’m talking about has its source in education [...] particularly [...] Roman Catholic and Presbyterian [...] a sense of severe disconnectedness where the familiar stepping-stones disappear [135] [...] paralysing of the possibility of development [...]’; Kilroy compares Northern Catholics and Protestants with Croats and Serbs in terms of ‘the claim of the Elect, the Chosen People, the One, True Faith [...] of unique access to truth’; further: ‘one cannot exaggerate the rage and terror which such absolutism inspires, nor the barbarity which it is capable of causing.’ [137] He also quotes Seamus Deane, and the American theologian Harvey Cox. Note that his remarks are subsequently endorsed by Fergus O’Ferrall and Werner Jeanrond (pp.153-54), and with qualification, by Gerald Dawe (p.157).

Talbot’s Box - concluding speech:

“The old man worked at the bench, shavin’ the yella timbers in the sunlight. They niver spoke. No need for words. Nuthin’ was heard but the sound of timber. Then wan day ... wan day the boy left. He put down the tools outta his hands. Again, nare a word. The old man came to the door with him. They kissed wan another. Then the mother came like a shadow from the house an’ she kissed the boy too. Then the boy walked down the road in the dust ’n the hot sun. ’N way in the far distance of the city he could hear them, the sound of the hammers ’n they batin’ the timbers inta the shape o’ the cross.”

—Quoted in Declan Hughes, ‘Visceral Force and Haunting Lyric Beauty’, in The Irish Times (Wed. 27 April 2011)

Sense of Place? ‘To base one’s identity exclusively upon a mystical sense of place, upon the accident of one’s birth, seems to me a dangerous absurdity. To dedicate one’s life to the systematic betrayal of the same notion seems to be just as absurd.’ (Introduction to Double Cross ; quoted in Jack Hanna, reviewing same, in Books Ireland, Oct. 1996, p.279.)

Remembrance Day, 2003: Readings and discussion under the title “Theatres of War” were conducted at the Lyric Theatre, Ridgeway St., Belfast, on 9 Nov. 2003, with speakers Tom Kilroy, Tom Paulin and others.

Individual v. community: Sharon Moore, ‘Seamus Heaney’s Revelation of Self Through Community’, in Studi Irlandesi, A Journal of Irish Studies, 1:1 (2011) writes: ’Thomas Kilroy challenges the widespread view that “literature is the product of an individualistic mind”, and questions the popular association of “the act of writing [...] with a transcending of the ordinary, everyday social facts of existence”.’ (Citing P[eter] Connolly, ed., Literature and the Changing Ireland, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1982, p.179; available as .pdf - online; accessed 14.02.2023.)

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D. E. S. Maxwell Modern Irish Drama (1984), lists The Death and Resurrection of Mr Roche (London and NY 1968); Talbot’s Box (Gallery Dublin 1979); The Seagull, a new version (London 1981).

Peter Fallon & Seán Golden, eds., Soft Day, A Miscellany Of Contemporary Irish Writing (Notre Dame/Wolfhound 1980), contains extract from Kilroy’s Talbot’s Box .

Andrew Carpenter & Peter Fallon, eds., The Writers: A Sense of Place (Dublin: O’Brien Press 1980), contains ‘Her Whiteness Attracts a Blackness’, an extract from a novel by Thomas Kilroy, with photo-port., p.92-96, &c[ top ]

Brian de Breffny, Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopaedia (London: Thames & Hudson 1983) quotes Kilroy as characterising Talbot’s Box (1977) - i.e., the actual box (or stage) - as ‘part prison, part sanctuary, part active space’.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3 selects Double Cross [1274-1305]. Recent plays, The Seagull, after Chekhov (1981), Royal Court; That Man, Bracken, radio play, 20 June 1986; Double Cross, Brendan Bracken and William Joyce (Field Day 1986), and Ghosts, after Ibsen (1989); in 1977 Kilroy was appointed play editor at the Abbey; Field Day director, 1988. Note, Field Day is the object of approving remarks in the preface to Kilroy’s Double Cross.

Aosdana (1987 Gazette) cites Angela, Falling from Grace as forthcoming novel.

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The Big Chapel (1971) - 1: is based on a notorious clerical scandal of Victorian Ireland involving sectarian violence in Kilkenny involving Father Lannigan, an anguished demagogue, and the schoolteacher Emerine Scully, who finds himself unable to take sides. The narration is interspersed with extracts from the diary of Horace Percy Butler, a landlord and an amateur scientist. (See book-notices from Faber and Liberties Press.)

The Big Chapel (1971) - 2: The events in Callan are dealt with in Colin Barr, The European Culture Wars in Ireland: The Callan Schools Affair, 1868-81 (UCD Press), detailing the career of Fr. Robert O’Keeffe, parish priest of Callan, his hometown, from 1863, whose concern with education led him to set up a new school in the parish which drew pupils away from the Christian Brothers, attracting the ire of Bishop Walsh, and resulting in his discharge from post of school manager and work-house chaplain; there ensued rioting up to 1881 especially in connection with the law suits that O’Keeffe brought against the clergy, including Cardinal Cullen as a representative of the Church against whom O’Keeffe appealed for justice to the Government. (See review in Books Ireland, Dec. 2010, p.264.)

Irish Pen/AT Cross Lit. Award for Life-time Achievement, presented by Jennifer Johnston at Royal St George Yacht Club dinner, 1st Feb. 2008; previously awarded to John B. Keane (1999), Seamus Heaney, Edna O’Brien and Brien Friel. Irish [branch of] PEN estab. by Lady Gregory, 1921. Kilroy said: ‘The thing about plays is they have to be written very fast for them to work ... you build up a head of steam and they have to be written very fast to work on a stage so that you get the tempo of a play.’ (The Irish Times, 2 Feb. 2008.)

NDU on stage: The University of Notre Dame invites you to attend a public lecture by Thomas Kilroy entitled “The Intellectual on Stage” at 7.00 pm on 14 June in a O’Connell House, 58 Merrion Sq., Dublin.

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