Article Title

“It’s Crazy, That Was Us”: The Implicated and Compliant Audience in The Boys of Foley Street


Nelson Barre


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Demands for participation shape the performance experience in Irish director Louise Lowe’s 2012 project, The Boys of Foley Street. The piece forces spectators to become participants, living the cultural milieu as much as viewing it. The viewers act as accomplices rather than innocent bystanders because the emphasis remains on active expectation for participation. But what are the implications of compelling an audience into collusion with performed criminal activity in a culturally marginalized community? The production demands that audiences critically reconsider their views surrounding a largely demonized part of Dublin city life. To do this, the performance implicates each individual who enters this world. Lowe’s site-specific creation invites the disruption of social norms, pushing performance to a level of intimate and explosive reaction. Everything the viewer experiences is both performance and reality as the cultural memory of the neighborhood comes to life and actively subverts accepted conceptions about the area and the way in which viewers experience theater. In this paper, I aim to use ANU Productions’s The Boys of Foley Street as the quintessential example of a complex and immersive dramatic experience for an audience. I argue that this is a theatrically and morally complex work that breaks rules and conceptions of what can be called theater. The Boys of Foley Street troubles the supposed boundaries between spectator and performer, forcing audiences to confront not only their own personal morality but that of an entire city. Through encounters with the place, the people, and the social landscape, spectators recognize and enact their own roles in this production and in the marginalizing culture of Ireland.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.