“Plays and ghosts have a lot in common” Les fantômes de Stewart Parker et Brian Friel

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Martine Pelletier


This article seeks to explore the links between theatre and spectrality in the works of two contemporary Northern Irish playwrights, Stewart Parker and Brian Friel. Written at a time of great political tension in the 1980s, Parker’s Three Plays for Ireland show Irish history as conflictual and violent, haunted by ghosts looking for revenge ; his dramatic work attempts to exorcise those ghosts, through understanding, hope, laughter and love to escape from stasis and repetition Faith Healer (1980) and Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), two of Brian Friel’s most famous works are memory plays; the stage becomes the sacred space where, to borrow Beckett’s phrase, “all the dead voices” can resonate in both a collective and an intimate mode . Friel invites on stage in Faith Healer and Dancing at Lughnasa, a past that is uncannily present and haunting.

Through the ancient magic of ritual and theatre, Parker and Friel offer their audiences plays that will haunt us and that are themselves haunted: haunted by memorable productions; haunted by other texts with deliberate echoes of previous works. We need only think of the benevolent ghost of Chekhov for Friel, or of the many Irish playwrights invited by Parker in Northern Star. It is no wonder that Faith Healer should have fascinated Laurent Terzieff, the famous French actor/director, for whom “theatre is first and foremost the space where the visible world meets the invisible world, the space where my ghosts hope to encounter the ghosts of the audience.”

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How to Cite
Pelletier, M. (2021). “Plays and ghosts have a lot in common”: Les fantômes de Stewart Parker et Brian Friel. Imaginaires, (23), 58-70. https://doi.org/10.34929/imaginaires.vi23.24
Author Biography

Martine Pelletier, Université de Tours, ICD - EA 6297

Martine Pelletier est maître de conférences à l’université de Tours et membre de l’équipe de recherche ICD (EA 6297). Elle est l’auteur du livre Brian Friel : Histoire et histoires publié au Septentrion en 1997 ainsi que de nombreux articles sur le théâtre irlandais contemporain, notamment The Cambridge Companion to Brian Friel sous la direction d’Anthony Roche (2006), Irish Literature Since 1990: Diverse Voices, Michael Parker et Scott Brewster (dir.), (Manchester University Press, 2009), Irish Drama. Local and Global Perspectives, Nicholas Grene et Patrick Lonergan (dir.), (Carysfort Press, 2012). Elle a rédigé les préfaces aux onze traductions françaises par Alain Delahaye des pièces de Brian Friel parues aux éditions L’Avant-scène Théâtre entre 2009 et 2010. Ses publications les plus récentes sont, avec Carine Berbéri, Ireland : Authority and Crisis, paru en 2015 dans la collection « Reimagining Ireland » chez Peter Lang, et, avec Valérie Peyronel, le numéro spécial des Études irlandaises, « La Crise ? Quelle crise ? » (hiver 2015).