Sebastian Barry

Definition

Theater

  • (1955 - ) Irish playwight, novelist, and poet, whose worksexplore the interplay between family and national history. Barry was born in Dublin, the son of an architect father and the actress Joan O' Hara, a stalwartof the Abbey Theatre. Despite not learning to read or write until he was nine, Barry went on to publish several novels and volumes of poetry while still in his twenties. His career as a playwright began in 1988, when the Abbey stagedBoss Grady's Boys, the first in a series of loosely linked plays about "the lost, hidden or seldom mentioned people in one Irish family" - the family in question being based on Barry's own. The series continuedwith Prayers of Sherkin (1990), White Woman Street (1992), and The Only True History of Lizzie Finn (1995).

    International recognition came with Barry's next play, The Steward of Christendom (1995), which was staged at London's Royal Court by the Out Of Joint company and later transferred to New York. The play traces the declining fortunes and eventual breakdown of Dunn, a Catholic police officer who remainedloyal to the British during Ireland's struggle for independence in the 1920s. The tormented central character was based on Barry's own great-grandfather. Our Lady of Sligo (1998), another award-winning play about private and public memories, was seen at the National Theatre in London and subsequently in Dublin and off-Broadway. Much less successful was Hinterland (2002), a coproduction between Out Of Joint, the Abbey, and the National that caused a furore when it was staged in Dublin: the play - which features a disgraced politician clearly based on the former premier Charles Haughey - upset not just political interests but many critics, who considered it deeply flawed. Subsequent works for the stage have included the monologues Whistling Psyche (2004) and The Pride of Parnell Street (2007), Tales of Ballycumber (2009), and Andersen's English (2010), about the Danish writer's visit to Charles Dickens in England.

    In recent years Barry has found greater recognition as a novelist, notably with A Long Long Way (2005) and the enormously successful The Secret Scripture (2008).

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