Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The Playboy of the Western World and The Apple Cart: Flying High at the Shaw

Marla McLean and Qasim Khan in The Playboy of the Western World. (Photo: Emily Cooper)

In the preface to his 1907 masterpiece The Playboy of the Western World, the Irish playwright John Millington Synge writes, “On the stage one must have reality and one must have joy . . . In a good play every speech should be as fully flavoured as a nut or apple . . .” This dictum explains the play’s unusual style and texture, realism folded in with folk-fable imagination and humor and language so musical that it sings in your ears even when you’re just reading the text. Synge claims that he owes both the wildness of the narrative and the richness of the vernacular to his close attention to the way rural working-class Irish people speak (or did around the turn of the twentieth century).