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Excerpt: "Within Irish drama of the late 20'h century, the use of language as a marker for lrishness begins to shift away from a focus on accents and Hiberno-English, towards a use of language that attempts to actually establish new truths: truths about relationships and alliances, truths about history, truths about memory, and especially truths about identity. Language becomes the very means of change and hope, in drama that has become concerned with the use of language not as signifier of nation but as reiteration of the stories that might be able to change through that reiteration. What is 'true' is no longer shaped by someone else's language, but by the incantatory retelling and recasting of stories in versions particularized by individuals. The words themselves become a means for an imposition of identity. Language is not only the tool, but also the subject for discussion and performance. Whereas some others, including Tom Murphy, Christina Reid, and Enda Walsh, have concluded that language does indeed change at least the perception of truth, Frank McGuinness, in Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (1985), concludes that language cannot always succeed in its efforts to create a new reality. A play in which eight men try to come to terms with the events leading up to the Battle of the Somme in France during WWI, The Sons of Uifter shows us that language may be able to change personal identity, but it can never change history, desirable though that may be."


Originally published as a chapter in The Theatre of Frank McGuinness: Stages of Mutability, edited by Helen Lojek. Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2003.

ISBN-13: 978-1904505013