The Playboy of the Western World is a three-act play written by Irish playwright John Millington Synge and first performed at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, on 26 January 1907. It is set in Michael James Flaherty's public house in County Mayo (on the west coast of Ireland) during the early 1900s. It tells the story of Christy Mahon, a young man running away from his farm, claiming he killed his father.
The play is best known for its use of the poetic, evocative language of Hiberno-English, heavily influenced by the Irish language, as Synge celebrates the lyrical speech of the Irish.
On the west coast of County MayoChristy Mahon stumbles into Flaherty's tavern. There he claims that he is on the run because he killed his own father by driving a loy into his head. Flaherty praises Christy for his boldness, and Flaherty's daughter (and the barmaid), Pegeen, falls in love with Christy, to the dismay of her betrothed, Shawn Keogh. Because of the novelty of Christy's exploits and the skill with which he tells his own story, he becomes something of a town hero. Many other women also become attracted to him, including the Widow Quin, who tries unsuccessfully to seduce Christy at Shawn's behest. Christy also impresses the village women by his victory in a donkey race, using the slowest beast.
Eventually Christy's father, Mahon, who was only wounded, tracks him to the tavern. When the townsfolk realize that Christy's father is alive, everyone, including Pegeen, shuns him as a liar and a coward. To regain Pegeen's love and the respect of the town, Christy attacks his father a second time. This time it seems that Old Mahon really is dead, but instead of praising Christy, the townspeople, led by Pegeen, bind and prepare to hang him to avoid being implicated as accessories to his crime. Christy's life is saved when his father, beaten and bloodied, crawls back onto the scene, having improbably survived his son's second attack. As Christy and his father leave to wander the world, having reconciled, Shawn suggests that he and Pegeen get married soon, but she spurns him. Pegeen laments betraying and losing Christy: "I've lost the only playboy of the western world."
Riots occurred in January 1907 during and following the opening performance of the play. The riots were stirred up by Irish nationalists and republicans who viewed the contents of the play as an offence to public morals and an insult against Ireland. The riots took place in Dublin, spreading out from the Abbey Theatre and finally being quelled by the actions of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
The fact that the play was based on a story of apparent patricide also attracted a hostile public reaction. It was egged on by nationalists, including Sinn Féin leader Arthur Griffith, who believed that the theatre was not sufficiently political and described the play as "a vile and inhuman story told in the foulest language we have ever listened to from a public platform". With the pretext of a perceived slight on the virtue of Irish womanhood in the line "a drift of females standing in their shifts" (a shift (garment) being a female undergarment, similar to a nightgown), a significant portion of the crowd rioted, causing the remainder of the play to be acted out in dumb show. Nevertheless, press opinion soon turned against the rioters and the protests petered out.
Years later, William Butler Yeats declared to rioters against Seán O'Casey's pacifist drama The Plough and the Stars , in reference to the "Playboy Riots": "You have disgraced yourself again. Is this to be the recurring celebration of the arrival of Irish genius?"
In the 1965 film Young Cassidy , a riot occurs during a play by the fictitious playwright Cassidy, following which the character Yeats refers to Synge and speaks similar words, starting with "You have disgraced yourselves again."
The production of Synge's play met with more disturbances in the United States in 1911. On opening night in New York, hecklers booed, hissed, and threw vegetables and stink bombs while men scuffled in the aisles. The company was later arrested in Philadelphia and charged with putting on an immoral performance. The charges were later dismissed.
In September 2007, the play returned to the Abbey in a modern adaptation by Bisi Adigun and Roddy Doyle. Set in a suburb of West Dublin, it tells the story of Christopher Malomo, a Nigerian refugee who claims to have killed his father with a pestle. In 2011, The Old Vic, in London, played host to a classic adaptation directed by John Crowley starring Robert Sheehan, Niamh Cusack and Ruth Negga.
In 1912, Sil-Vara and Charles H. Fisher translated it into German as Der Held (literally 'hero') des Westerlandsor Der Held der westlichen Welt and had it published by Georg Müller and performed at Max Reinhardt's Kammerspiele, Berlin, at the Neue Wiener Bühne in Vienna and at the Stadttheater in Münster. In 1973 the Irish language national theatre group Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe produced an adaptation in the Irish language by Seán Ó Carra entitled Buachaill Báire an Domhain Thiar. The play was adapted in 1984 by Trinidadian playwright Mustapha Matura, lifted out of turn of the century Ireland and set down in 1950s Trinidad, and retitled Playboy of the West Indies . In 2006, a Mandarin Chinese version of the play set in a hairdressers shop in a Beijing suburb was performed at the Beijing Oriental Theatre. It was produced by the Irish contemporary theatre company, Pan Pan. The play attracted controversy when a member of the audience complained about the shortness of the skirt worn by Sha Sha, playing the Sarah Tansey character. Following the complaint, the play was attended by two policemen.
In 1975 Giselher Klebe's operatic adaption Ein wahrer Held (A True Hero) premiered at the Zurich Opera House. A 2003 operatic rendition by Mark Alburger was produced from 23 to 26 August 2007 by GHP/SF Cabaret Opera at Oakland Metro Opera House, in Oakland, California. A musical theatre version, written by Kate Hancock and Richard B. Evans, premiered at the STAGES 2005 musical festival at the Theatre Building Chicago. In 2009, a musical adaptation entitled Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge premiered in New York City. With music by Peter Mills and a book by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel, the musical transplants the story to 1930s Appalachia and is set to a bluegrass-flavoured score.
A 1962 film version of the play was produced in Ireland, with the screenplay by writer-director Brian Desmond Hurst. It stars Siobhán McKenna as Pegeen, Gary Raymond as Christy, and Elspeth March as Widow Quin, with music by Seán Ó Riada.A 1994 TV movie adaptation was entitled Paris or Somewhere. Set in rural Saskatchewan, it starred Callum Keith Rennie as Christy Mahon, a young American farmer who arrives in town and claims to have killed his father. He charms the town with his story, particularly Peg (Molly Parker), the daughter of a local store owner and bootlegger. The screenplay was written by novelist Lee Gowan. A film adaptation was also made in 2016. Set in the USA and titled, ' My Father Die', it was written and directed by Sean Brosnan.
In June 2018, a new feature-length film production entitled Christy Mahon - Playboy of the Western Worldwas registered by Swiss producers on IMDB. Filming will be in Bray, Ireland and scheduled for late October / November 2019. The producers procured a print of the play from a notebook version of the text published in 1912 and upon which they based their screenplay.
The Abbey Theatre, also known as the National Theatre of Ireland, in Dublin, Ireland, is one of the country's leading cultural institutions. First opening to the public on 27 December 1904, and moved from its original building after a fire in 1951, it has remained active to the present day. The Abbey was the first state-subsidized theatre in the English-speaking world; from 1925 onwards it received an annual subsidy from the Irish Free State. Since July 1966, the Abbey has been located at 26 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1.
Edmund John Millington Synge was an Irish playwright, poet, writer, collector of folklore, and a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival. His best known play The Playboy of the Western World was poorly received, due to its bleak ending, depiction of Irish peasants, and idealisation of parricide, leading to hostile audience reactions and riots in Dublin during its opening run at Abbey Theatre, Dublin, which he had co-founded with W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. His other major works include "In the Shadow of the Glen" (1903), "Riders to the Sea" (1904), "The Well of the Saints" (1905), and "The Tinker's Wedding" (1909).
Events in the year 1907 in Ireland.
Niamh Cusack is an Irish actress. Born to a family with deep roots in the performing arts, Cusack has been involved as a performer since a young age. She has served with the UK's two leading theatre companies, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre and has performed in a long line of major stage productions since the mid-1980s. She has made numerous appearances on television including a long-running role as Dr. Kate Rowan in the UK series Heartbeat (1992–1995) which made her a household name and favourite. She has often worked as a voice actress on radio, and her film credits include a starring role in In Love with Alma Cogan (2011).
Maire O'Neill was an Irish actress of stage and film. She holds a place in theatre history as the first actress to interpret the lead character of Pegeen Mike Flaherty in John Millington Synge's controversial masterpiece The Playboy of the Western World (1907).
Playboy of the West Indies is a play by Trinidadian playwright Mustapha Matura, a Caribbean version of Synge's The Playboy of the Western World. Playboy of the West Indies opened in 1984 at the Oxford Playhouse, where it had been commissioned by Nicolas Kent, and subsequently toured the UK, finishing at the Tricycle Theatre in London. The original cast included Joy Richardson, Jackie de Peza (Ivy), Frank Singuineau (Jimmy), Jim Findley (Ken), T-Bone Wilson (Mac), Mona Hammond, Rudolph Walker (Mikey), Joan Ann Maynard (Peggy), Tommy Eytle (Phil), and Jason Rose (Stanley).
Riders to the Sea is a play written by Irish Literary Renaissance playwright John Millington Synge. It was first performed on 25 February 1904 at the Molesworth Hall, Dublin, by the Irish National Theater Society with Helen Laird playing Maurya. A one-act tragedy, the play is set at Inishmaan in the Aran Islands, and like all of Synge's plays it is noted for capturing the poetic dialogue of rural Ireland. The plot is based not on the traditional conflict of human wills but on the hopeless struggle of a people against the impersonal but relentless cruelty of the sea.
DruidSynge is a theatre production of the complete plays of John Millington Synge by the Irish based Druid Theatre Company. It was the vision of Garry Hynes, the first woman to win a Tony Award for best director, to create the day-long cycle of all six plays;
Poitín (1978) was the first feature film to be made entirely in Irish. It was also the first recipient of a film script grant from the Arts Council of Ireland.
Nick Lee is an Irish actor. His work on screen includes Reign ; The Fall (BBC); Jack Taylor (TV3/RTL); Raw (RTÉ); Single-Handed: The Stolen Child (RTÉ); as Michael Collins in Frongoch - University of Revolution (TG4/S4C); The Clinic (RTÉ); Battlefield Britain (BBC); and the final series of Bachelors Walk (RTÉ). His stage work includes: The Changeling ; Dubliners ; Juno and the Paycock directed by Howard Davies ; Pineapple by Philip McMahon (Calipo); Malachy in The Dead School by Pat McCabe ; The Passing written and directed by Paul Mercier and Three Sisters directed by David Leveaux ; Dmitry Karamazov in Delirium by Enda Walsh; Shawn Keogh in The Playboy of the Western World directed by Tony award winning director Garry Hynes ; DruidSynge- The Complete Plays of JM Synge directed by Garry Hynes ; The Year of the Hiker directed by Garry Hynes ; as Michael Hegarty in The Freedom of the City by Brian Friel ; as Patrick Kavanagh in The Green Fool
Pegeen is the anglicized spelling of Peigín, an Irish given name meaning "little Peig/Margaret" and may refer to:
The Rising of the Moon is a 1957 Irish anthology film directed by John Ford. It consists of three episodes all set in Ireland:
Young Cassidy is a 1965 film directed by Jack Cardiff and John Ford and starring Rod Taylor, Julie Christie, and Maggie Smith. It is a biographical drama based upon the life of the playwright Seán O'Casey.
Maureen Charlton was an Irish playwright, poet and broadcaster.
Liam O Mallie, inspiration for the character of Christy Mahon in The Playboy of the Western World, fl. 1873.
Gustav A. "Geza" Silberer was an Austrian journalist and author of Jewish extraction born in Werschetz who wrote in German under the pseudonym Sil-Vara.
Cecil Sheridan was an Irish comedian and actor who performed in variety shows and pantomimes in Ireland and Great Britain during a versatile career spanning over forty years.
A loy is an early Irish spade with a long heavy handle made of ash, a narrow steel plate on the face and a single footrest. The word loy comes from the Irish word láí, which means "spade". It was used for manual ploughing prior to and during the Great Famine.
The Playboy of the Western World is a 1962 film version of the 1907 play written by John Millington Synge. It was directed and co-written by Brian Desmond Hurst and stars Gary Raymond and Siobhán McKenna. Filmed in County Kerry, the film features many of the Abbey Players. The film was produced by the Four Provinces company created in 1952 by Hurst and Michael Morris, 3rd Baron Killanin who had previously produced John Ford’s The Rising of the Moon and Gideon's Day.
Bridget Patricia Byrne is an Irish writer of narrative nonfiction. Two of her books deal with historical events in nineteenth-century Achill Island.