The Brian Friel Theatre and the Brian Friel Centre for Theatre research was opened by Brian Friel in 2009. The building located at 20 University Square forms the centre piece of the Drama Studies course at Queen’s University Belfast. The Brian Friel Centre aims to produce world class research as well as offering students a vibrant environment in which to study.
Watch the opening night of the Brian Friel Theatre
Both the theatre and research centre aim to produce work of the highest international standard and lead the way in theatre research and theatre production. The theatre and research centre have already hosted international conferences as well as touring productions from around the world with a view to establishing one of the leading academic drama facilities.
By April De Angelis
Directed by Beth Whitten
The Brian Friel Theatre
Tuesday the 1st - Thursday the 3rd of April
Drama Research Seminar
CLASS, POLITICS AND THE IRISH STAGE
Dr Michael Pierse
4pm Thursday 3 April. House 21 University Square, seminar Room (ground Floor)
Admission is free and all are welcome.
‘The “working classes” have been the source of much disappointment and disgust for the middle-class observers who have studied them, and, in large part, this is marked out through the lack of legitimacy granted to working-class cultural capital,’ writes Steph Lawler. In orthodox academic and cultural terms, ‘they do not know the right things, they do not value the right things, they do not want the right things’. How, then, could the working classes read, let alone write, the right things? Since the development and codification of middle-class concepts of art and culture in Western Europe from the early eighteenth century, ‘taste’ has been closely aligned with the attitudes and affectations of the middle and upper classes. In Terry Eagleton’s enigmatic words, ‘only those with an interest [property] can be disinterested’; only those with a stake in capitalism can be truly capable of setting the standards for valid cultural appreciation. My exploration of the writing and culture of a class traditionally marginalised within this context of classed distinctions has posed various theoretical and practical difficulties. If the elevated sphere of culture connoted by things like ‘literature’ and ‘art’ is, as the above writers and sociologists like Pierre Bourdieu would contend, deeply embedded in the business of class distinctions, how can the academic approach it with ‘clean hands’? How can we begin to talk about issues of class distinctions and inequalities, and how can we approach the process of excavating the lost, undervalued or ignored texts of working-class experience, when the discourse itself is so plainly exclusivist? In an Irish context, where narratives of contending ethno-nationalisms have largely trumped issues like class in scholarly enquiry, is class a valid category in which fruitful cultural analysis can emerge? In a local context, for instance, where the theatrical fare in places like the Lyric and MAC has come in for some stiff criticism of late for allegedly having ‘little to offer’ Belfast’s working class (to quote a DUP MLA), is the theatre a rarefied realm where only stories tailored to middle-class interests can be told, where class distinctions are continually ‘performed’? Through an engagement with various writers of Irish working-class life, such as Seán O’Casey, Brendan Behan, Thomas Carnduff, Sam Thomspon, Paula Meehan, Stewart Parker , Christina Reid and Martin Lynch, this talk will explore some of these questions of class, theatre and critical theory.