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dc.contributor.advisorKuch, Peter
dc.contributor.authorSutherland, Iain
dc.identifier.citationSutherland, I. (2018). The Reception of Sean O’Casey’s Early Works in New Zealand (1924–47): A Social, Cultural, and Political Reading of the Archive (Thesis, Master of Arts). University of Otago. Retrieved from
dc.description.abstractThis thesis recovers the New Zealand reception history of Sean O’Casey, the Irish working-class playwright who rose to prominence at the Dublin Abbey Theatre in the aftermath of the Irish revolutionary period. Until now, the New Zealand response to O’Casey and his early plays — ‘The Shadow of the Gunman’ (1923), ‘Juno and the Paycock’ (1924), ‘The Plough and the Stars’ (1926), and 'The Silver Tassie’ (1929) — has been left unexamined, and largely ignored, by both Irish and New Zealand scholars. Focusing on the years between 1924 and 1947, this thesis utilises press reports, performance reviews, theatrical records, and other archival ephemera to reconstruct O’Casey’s reputation as it had begun developing within the country’s amateur theatrical societies, educational associations, and cinemas. This history argues that each society implicitly constructed and limited their interpretation of O’Casey’s plays to suit their own social, political, and cultural biases. Chapter One argues ‘Juno’s’ early association with the Hawthornden Prize, the Irish Players, and English cultural elites cultivated an exotic fascination with O’Casey’s celebrity and class status, which had been influenced by New Zealand’s close alignment with the British press. Chapter Two analyses the shifting focus away from persona towards performance as the Workers’ Educational Association began including O’Casey on its modern drama syllabuses across the country. Particularly in Christchurch, Sir James Shelley’s solo readings of ‘Gunman’ and ‘Juno’ attracted large, entertainment-starved crowds and were designed, in part, to fulfil Shelley’s pioneering mission to offer rural New Zealanders, whose lives he considered “intellectually barren,” a cultural update closer in line with British standards. Chapter Three argues the introduction of ‘talkies,’ the effects of the Great Depression, and the end of professional touring theatre in New Zealand caused amateur theatrical societies to frame their activities as a “re-colonial” alternative to American popular culture. In the 1930s, when the first cinema adaptations of O’Casey’s plays began to appear from Hollywood and Elstree, the Wellington Repertory Society also staged their “milestone” production of ‘Juno’; however, from this most contested period of O’Casey’s reception, the voice of New Zealand amateur societies proved the most enduring. Taking Wellington Repertory’s production of ‘Juno’ as a case study, Chapter Four argues the play’s international performance legacy further entrenched the belief in O’Casey’s “genius” and was a sign of his place in British high culture. Chapter Five examines Wellington Unity Theatre’s post-war productions of ‘Juno’ and ‘The Plough’ which somewhat recovered the missing political dimension of O’Casey’s reception in New Zealand. This chapter argues the two plays saved the theatre from financial crisis precisely because they satisfied Unity’s desire both to appeal to popular audiences, and to maintain its philosophical focus on producing socially conscious theatre. These five chapters demonstrate how the New Zealand perspective on O’Casey shifted to reflect the socio-cultural context of each theatrical group the plays encountered, although there is a common British high-cultural bias which remains central to the reception as a whole. Most significantly, this thesis brings the periphery into focus, and not only retrieves a new audience and context for studying O’Casey’s plays, but also recasts New Zealand’s theatrical landscape from the viewpoint of the amateur and the enthusiast.
dc.publisherUniversity of Otago
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dc.subjectSean O'Casey
dc.subjectNew Zealand
dc.subjectAmateur Theatre
dc.subjectIrish Studies
dc.subjectReception Studies
dc.subjectInterwar Theatre
dc.subjectIrish Theatre History
dc.subjectLeft Theatre
dc.subjectIrish Revolutionary Period
dc.subjectWorking Class Theatre
dc.subjectBritish Re-colonialism
dc.subjectNew Zealand Theatre History
dc.titleThe Reception of Sean O'Casey's Early Works in New Zealand (1924–47): A Social, Cultural, and Political Reading of the Archive
dc.language.rfc3066en for Irish and Scottish Studies and the Department of English and Linguistics of Arts of Otago
otago.openaccessAbstract Only
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