Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Aran Islands

Last night, I watched Irish Repertory Theatre's digital production of The Aran Islands, a one-man play with Brendan Conroy based on a non-fiction account by John Millington Synge.

At the suggestion of fellow writer William Butler Yeats, Synge lived for a while out on the stark, remote islands off Ireland's west coast. The idea was to give Synge a better understanding of rural Irish people and their native language.

Synge's account of his stay there, first published in the New Irish Review in 1898, describes a hardened but life-filled people, prone to superstition and brimming with stories to tell. Conroy relates many of these yarns, including an account of a child stolen by fairies, and a folk-tale that contains elements from The Decameron as well as Shakespeare's Cymbeline and The Merchant of Venice.

Other stories Synge picked up in the Aran Islands made their way into his one-act plays Riders to the Sea and In the Shadow of the Glen. The remote location in western Ireland also inspired Synge's most famous play, The Playboy of the Western World.

Joe O'Bryne adapted and directed The Aran Islands, which can be viewed as part of the online performances offered by Irish Rep. The production is currently running through March 28th.