Theatre, memory and trauma
Sir, – This inaugural symposium at the Abbey Theatre (Home News, January 18th) addressed the role of theatre in evoking memory where it is associated with individual or collective trauma. The context was the upcoming commemorations of the 1914 war, 1916 Rising, etc. From the opening scintillating speech by President Michael D Higgins to a host of outstanding talks and interviews, it was, first to last, a seminal event.
The President was followed by Mannix Flynn, who immediately attacked the self-indulgence of cultural elite prematurely turning the testimonies contained in the Ryan Report into “a night out” . This reality check and a thoughtful presentation by Carl O’Brien on how a new group of people, immigrants, are being traumatised today, hidden away as they are in camps for years as our Kafkaesque judiciary recycles their applications for asylum, brutally closed off any propensity toward sepia-tinted centenary remembrances.
One would hope that The Irish Times will do justice to the event with a proper of series of analyses. Joyce was invoked for his discussion of catharsis in Greek tragedy in Portrait of the Artist, but it is notable that we tend to prefer to concentrate on the pity aspect with its empathy, ignoring its twin, the terror aspect, which also needs to be faced if the cause of trauma is to be fully apprehended and healed. In so doing we militate against gestating another cycle of harm when awakening old, or in rendering recent, trauma. – Yours, etc,
Swords, Co Dublin.