1st Edition

Contemporary Irish Theatre and Social Change Activist Aesthetics

By Emer O'Toole Copyright 2023
    182 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book uses the social transformation that has taken place in Ireland from the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993 to the repeal of the 8th amendment in 2018 as backdrop to examine relationships between activism and contemporary Irish theatre and performance.

    It studies art explicitly intended to create social and political change for marginalised constituencies. It asks what happens to theatre aesthetics when artists’ aims are political and argues that activist commitments can create new modes of beauty, meaning, and affect. Categories of race, class, sexuality, and gender frame chapters, provide social context, and identify activist artists’ social targets. This book provides in depth analysis of: Arambe – Ireland’s first African theatre company; THEATREclub – an experimental collective with issues of class at its heart; The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival; and feminist artists working to Repeal the 8th amendment. It highlights the aesthetic strategies that emerge when artists set their sights on justice. Aesthetic debates, both historical and contemporary, are laid out from first principles, inviting readers to situate themselves – whether as artists, activists, or scholars – in the delicious tension between art and life.

    This book will be a vital guide to students and scholars interested in theatre and performance studies, gender studies, Irish history, and activism.


    Introduction: The Beauty of Change

    1 Arambe Productions: A Hammer, Shaping 

    2 THEATREclub: Class Acts

    3 The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival: Confession and Community

    4 Art and the 8th: The Feminist Aesthetics of Tara Flynn, Jesse Jones, and the Suffragettes at the Galway Races

    Reflections: On Art That Is Activism



    Emer O’Toole is Associate Professor of Irish Performance Studies at the School of Irish Studies, Concordia University.