The Only Jealousy of Emer

The Only Jealousy of Emer was performed in the National Library, Kildare Street, Dublin from 28 to 31 July and from 4 to 7 August 2009 each day at 1:15pm. It is one of four plays in the Yeats canon described collectively as The Cú Chulainn Cycle. Written between 1900 and 1939, in order of presentation, the plays would be performed in the following sequence:

  • At the Hawk's Well
  • On Baile's Strand
  • The Only Jealousy of Emer
  • The Death of Cú Chulainn

The plays' themes are very much the recurring themes of Yeats's poetry – issues of the purpose of life, the nature of beauty, love, action, commitment and heroism and the recurrent image of Cú Chulainn. At the Hawk's Well deals with age and major existential issues such as 'what is the purpose of life?' Man's struggle against the Fates drives the monumental On Baile's Strand. The nature of love and the nature of beauty are the two main subjects addressed in The Only Jealousy of Emer while images of the dying poet's 'circus animals' predominate in Yeats's last play The Death of Cú Chulainn. An image of the poster for the play is here.

 

Three Masks

 

"Yeats is a poet as much of fact as of feeling. Every work of his has a source—whether from folklore, legend, mythology, the occult, or history: each a source that for him had a definite objective reality. The demands of this world and of that other world of Yeatsian spiritual reality often conflict. His play The Only Jealousy of Emer, particularly in its early drafts, offers a vivid portrayal of such a struggle. It marks one of the turning points of Yeats's career, because in its final form it is a synthesis of two profound experiences that were to shape his later work: his marriage to Georgic Hyde-Lees in 1917 brought him a certain degree of contentment with the joys of this world, while her automatic script provided a philosophical framework for his poems and plays."

Extract from "The Only Jealousy of Emer" and "Fighting the Waves" Manuscript Materials by W.B. Yeats edited by Steven Winnett, the Cornell Y'eats

 

Cast in Order of Appearance

Chorus

Aoife Moore

 

Sarah Kinlen

 

Fiona Moon / Jennifer Arden

Emer

Sharon Coade

Eithne Inguba

Sarah Allen Clarke

Figure of Cú Chulainn

Simon Stewart

Ghost of Cú Chulainn

Glen Forbes / Tristan McConnell

Woman of the Sidhe

Olivia Pouyanne

 

 

Directed by

Olivia Pouyanne

Director Assisted by

Sharon Coade

Masks by

Caoimhe Dunn

Backdrop by

Oisin Byrne

Music by

Raymond Warren - courtesy of Lyric Players Theatre, Belfast

 

Photography by

Declan Brennan

 

Chorus, Emer & Cú Chulainn

 

Profiles of the Actors

 

Jennifer Arden

Jennifer graduated from the Gaiety School of Acting (GSA) in 2009. She played the role of 'Amy' in the graduation play'The Hunter Returns' directed by Liam Halligan at Project Arts Centre. She also trained extensively in the UK at Rose Bruford and with Year Out Drama Company (Stratford-Upon-Avon).

 

Three Masks
Sarah Allen Clarke

Sarah graduated from the GSA in 2009. She played the widow in her graduation play The Hunter Returns. Other roles include: Ruth in Blithe Spirit (Peacock Theatre), Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (dir. Liam Halligan).

 

Sharon Coade

Sharon trained with Deirdre O'Connell in the Focus Theatre, Dublin. Theatre work includes Be My Baby (Lyric, Belfast), The Letters (New Theatre), the Old Neighbourhood (T@36), Habeas Corpus (Samuel Beckett ), Snow White (Olympia), Follies (National Concert Hall), War (Passion Machine) and The Young Europeans (Project Arts), many Yeats plays including The Cú Chulainn Cycle and The Words Upon The Window Pane. Film/TV work includes Girls, Awareness and Fair City.

 

Glen Forbes

Glen trained at the GSA and Sallynoggin College of Further Education. Credits include Rudolph Peterson in Judgement at Nuremberg & Mr Swales in Dracula (Blue Moon), Larry in Closer (1984 Prod.), Moth in Two, Claudius in Rosencratz & Guildenstern are Dead (Cyebo). Films include The Hunchback in The Tudors. Played Cardinal Bellarmin in Dublin Lyric's The Life of Galileo.

 

Sarah Kinlen

Sarah is a graduate of GSA. She also holds a Masters in Dramatherapy. Recent performances inlcude Amy in The Fireroom (Project), Puck in A Midsummer Night Dream (Fast and Loose Theatre Co). Also has performed with Landmark in Miss Julie and Barabbas in 400 Songs of Green.

Three Masks
Fiona Moon

Fiona trained at the GSA and Brit School of Performing Arts, London. Her theatre credits include When The Hunter Returns, Cry November, Starting Here, Starting Now, Little Shop of Horrors, and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with Bill Kenwright. Also a keen singer, dancer and musician. Appearing shortly in Godspell at The Grand Opera House, Belfast.

 

Aoife Moore

Aoife is a graduate of the Conservatory of Music and Drama, Rathmines. Her credits include Emilia & Dorcas (The Winter's Tale), Grusha (The Caucasian Chalk Circle), Alice (The Unknown Project), Pippi (What Are You Waiting For), Monica 'Fur Coat and No Knickers', Film being released in August, '09. Dance performances with Coisceim Youth Dance Company include Isadora Door & Square Peg. Aoife is currently in pre-production with her own one-woman musical film.

 

Olivia Pouyanne

Olivia graduated from the GSA full-time programme in 2004. Her theatre credits include "the Waiting Room" co-written with Kabosh, War of the Roses trilogy (Mrs Lancaster in 2008, (Best Production Nominee in the Fringe Festival) and since 2005 has appeared in many productions of Dublin Lyric. Most recently she appeared in The Life of Galileo and directed The Cat and The Moon.

 

Simon Stewart

Simon graduated from GSA in 2009. He has appeared as 'Martin' in Lally Katz' When the Hunter Returns directed by Liam Halligan and more recently in Classic Stage Irelands new play Crystal's House directed by Andy Hinds. Other Credits include Measure for Measure, Othello, The Hunt for Red Willie and Blythe Spirit.

Tristan McConnell

Tristan graduated from the two-year acting course at the Gaiety School of Acting in 2008. Theatre work includes Reynolds in "The Shawshank Redemption" at the Gaiety Theatre in 2009, Mike in "The Woman Who Left Herself" (Winner of Spirit of the Fringe Award), Dr. Shaw & Monk Macabre in "Magick Macabre" at the Olympia Theatre and for Dublin Lyric Players, Stranger in "The Dreaming of the Bones" and Soldier in "The King’s Threshold" at the National Library.

 

National Library 'Summer Lunch Plays' programme

The play was performed as the second of two plays in the National Library's 'Summer Lunch Plays' programme at the library on Kildare St, Dublin 2. Olivia Pouyanne directed two Yeats plays for Dublin Lyric Players as part of this programme. The first play, 'The Cat and the Moon' (also directed by Olivia Pouyanne, opened on 6 July and was performed up to Friday 17 July. That comedy by W B Yeats, about two beggars searching for a cure for their ailments, is told using the format of the Japanese Noh theatre. The presentation in July 2009 followed a successful run towards the end of 2008.

 

Yeats' use of Japanese Noh Drama form

Three Masks
Three Masks

A distinctive feature of some of Yeats' plays is his use of masks.

He explored many styles and was very much influenced by the strange (to Western eyes) mystery, elegance and beauty of the art of the Japanese Noh Theater. He set out to incorporate what is often referred to as “strange intimacy” rather than the “familiar distance” that was a part of productions at the time.

 

"I need a theatre. I believe myself to be a dramatist. I desire to show events and not merely tell of them...two of my best friends were won for me by my plays, and I seem to myself most alive at the moment when a room full of people share the one lofty emotion." –W.B Yeats 1917

 

The two “best friends” referred to in quote above are Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa. They were the ones who introduced Yeats to the Noh Drama. Elements of the structure of this form were used in several of his plays. The form gave Yeats an opportunity to present his mythical, supernatural and symbolic ideas in a suitably stylised way.

Chorus, Emer & Cú Chulainn

The way Yeats chose to present these plays allowed him to show spirit and real life forms of characters such as Cú Chulainn. In 'The Only Jealousy of Emer', for example, the ghost of Cú Chulainn and Cú Chulainn himself are on stage at the same time.

Three Masks
Three Masks

 

 

Such a scene would be difficult to stage with a naturalistic approach.

Yeats believed that this form would prevent his play from appearing artificial and would avoid the possibility of it being a distraction for the audience from the symbolism of what he wanted to portray.

 

 

Yeats wrote that the distance from real life which this style of theatre enabled was designed "to make credible, strange events".

Chorus, Emer & Cú Chulainn

Yeats view on the preferred way to present these works was that the venue and the audience should be small. For him, an ideal audience would be one where a group of friends and people interested in poetry came together in an intimate atmosphere in which they could best experience what he had written. Apart from its proximity to the major exhibition of his life and work in the National Library in 2009, the size and informal nature of the library's Seminar Room would probably have met with his approval - the audiences that the performances attracted certainly helped the actors to create his desired atmosphere!

Three Masks

The cast of 'The Only Jealousy of Emer'

Standing: Simon Stewart, Sharon Coade, Sarah Allen Clarke and Tristan McConnell

Kneeling: Aoife Moore, Sarah Kinlen, Fiona Moon and Olivia Pouyanne