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Adigun, Doyle Retell Synge’s The Playboy Of The Western World in America

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
23 October 2022   |   2:34 am
Solas Nua, Washington, DC’s contemporary Irish arts organisation, is set to stage an adaptation of one of the great classics of Irish theatre, J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World.

Rehearsal session

Solas Nua, Washington, DC’s contemporary Irish arts organisation, is set to stage an adaptation of one of the great classics of Irish theatre, J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World.

Hailed as “a hugely entertaining, often laugh-out-loud funny…superb piece of theatre” by The Irish Times, this timely take on the classic tale of rural life in Western Ireland was created by Nigerian-Irish playwright Bisi Adigun and one of Ireland’s best-known writers, BAFTA Award and Man Booker Prize-winning novelist, dramatist and screenwriter, Roddy Doyle.

The US premiere will run from November 3 to 20 at the Atlas Performing Arts Centre, Washington DC.

As retold by Adigun and Doyle, the western Irish farmers and villagers of Synge’s original are now tough Dublin gangsters, and the scallywag, runaway playboy of the story is re-imagined as a Nigerian refugee.

The adaptation shifts the action to modern-day, urban Ireland and highlights the changes that have occurred in the country, especially around such issues as immigration and inequality. The script was first commissioned by Adigun’s theatre company, Arambe Productions, Ireland’s first and only African Theatre Company, and was produced by Ireland’s famed Abbey Theatre in 2007.

A popular success, the adaptation drew critical acclaim: “an intriguing, freewheeling farce…Synge’s eloquence is decanted into the wisecracking Dublin repartee of The Commitments and The Van” (The Guardian, UK).

Solas Nua Artistic Director of Theatre Rex Daugherty says, “Playboy is arguably Ireland’s most famous play, and this contemporary adaptation showcases the comedy and dramatic power that Synge originally captured, while simultaneously reframing the context to include the multi-cultural identity of modern Ireland. It’s a remarkable piece of writing and we’re delighted to bring it to U.S. audiences.”

Following the 2:30 pm performance on November 6, Solas Nua will host a post-show question-and-answer discussion with Adigun.

The Nigerian-Irish dramatist founded Arambe Productions, Ireland’s only African Theatre Company. Adigun has written extensively about adapting plays from the Irish theatrical canon with a modern, multicultural perspective.

Adigun established Arambe Productions, Ireland’s first African theatre company in 2003, for which he writes, directs and produces his plays and others’. As theatre director/producer and artistic director, Adigun’s productions include African Voices (2003), The Gods Are Not to Blame (2004), Once Upon A Time and Not So Long Ago (2006), The Kings of the Kilburn High Road (2006 and 2007 in Ireland and USA), The Dilemma of a Ghost (2007), Through A Film Darkly (2008), Haba!!! Pastor Jero (2009 in Nigeria and Ireland), The Butcher Babes (2010), Home, Sweet Home (2010 in Nigeria), The Paddies of Parnell Street (2013), and Death and the King’s Horseman (2017 in Nigeria). Adigun is also a documentarist and was featured as a co-presenter of the first three series of Mono, RTE’s flagship television program on intercultural Ireland, from 2000 to 2003.

Adigun holds a B.A. (Hons) in Dramatic Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria; an M.A. in Film and TV; and a PhD in Drama Studies from the School of Drama, Film and Music (now School of Creative Arts), Trinity College, Dublin where he served for three years as an adjunct lecturer of African Theatre and Post-Colonial Theatre before joining Bowen University, Iwo in Western Nigeria, in 2019.

Author of dozens of books including novels and short story collections, as well as multiple plays and screenplays, Doyle is one of Ireland’s most beloved and popular writers. His first three novels, The Commitments (1987), The Snapper (1990), and The Van (1991), narrate the adventures of the Rabbitte family, residents of Barrytown, a poor housing estate in north Dublin. All three were made into films.

He won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1993 for his novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, the vibrant tale of a 10-year-old Irish boy, and has won critical acclaim for his other books including, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors (1996), A Star Called Henry (1999), Republic (2010), Two Pints (2012), The Guts (2013), Dead Man Talking (2015), Smile (2017), Love (2020), and his 2021 collection of pandemic-era short stories, Life Without Children.