‘Holes in the ground’
Theatre as critic and conscience of Celtic Tiger Ireland
in From prosperity to austerity
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This chapter reviews selected examples of Irish theatre's critical engagement with the building industry, banking and media which underpinned Celtic Tiger Ireland. Plays considered include Paraic Breatnach and others, Site!: A Builder’s Tale; Pom Boyd, Declan Lynch, Arthur Riordan, Boomtown!; Tom Hall, Boss; and David McWilliams, Outsiders. The time spanned by these works includes the statistical highpoint of Tiger ‘success’ in 1999, through to 2008, when it collapsed, and on to 2010 when the public demand for answers and culprits resulted in a ‘riot at the ballot box’. Merriman considers the extent to which the 1999 plays typify a public, critical engagement which emerged in the ‘theatre of the nation’ during the 1990s. It sets these interventionist works against the view that Irish theatre demonstrates failures of nerve and ethical purpose during the Celtic Tiger period, and it questions the extent to which this serious charge against dramatic artists is sustainable. Boomtown! is especially important here, as it was critically excoriated in its original production in 1999 but the sharp contrast between that dismissal and public responses to its revival, in staged reading form in 2009, exposes a trajectory in national life from denial to angry denunciation, over a ten-year period.

From prosperity to austerity

A socio-cultural critique of the Celtic Tiger and its aftermath

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