Manuscript of the Month: The Insect Play

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The Insect PlayMicheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards founded the Dublin Gate Theatre in 1928 and this year its 90th anniversary will be marked with seminars, exhibitions and publications.  It is worth remembering however that the duo had to share the Gate Theatre building with Longford Productions, on a rotating six-month basis.  While Edwards-Mac Liammóir toured in Europe as much as possible while they were temporarily homeless, more often than not they availed of a residency in the Gaiety Theatre. 

Image: Poster advertising The Insect Play (view larger version)

The Insect Play was performed at the Gaiety starting on 22 March 1943.  It answered Hilton and Micheál’s avowed intention to bring the finest and most challenging of European theatre to Dublin.  The original play was written in 1921 in Czech by Karel and Josef Kapek and here it has been translated by Myles na gCopaleen.

With a large cast, and complicated staging, this was not an easy play to produce but Hilton and Micheál enjoyed a challenge.  Most of the characters were either bees, ants or beetles and the primary setting was St Stephen’s Green. The play was a combination of fable, revue and satire and its object was the futility of war – initially referencing the First World War but when produced in the Gaiety in 1943 its relevance to the Second World War was clear. (As usual, the programme contains a message that the theatre is disinfected with Jeyes’ Fluid, a nod to public health and fears of infection).


Jeyes fluid smelt very strong in parts of the theatre also in the queens theatre. Fighting against the Black Death I used to think as a child

Off topic.

Just wanted to compliment ye on this very good blog.

Thanks Pól, that's always nice to hear!

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