John McCullagh March 10, 2008
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The Big House is an early twentieth century play by Stuart Lennox Robinson who was an Irish dramatist, a poet and a theatre director with the Abbey Theatre. 

Robinson was born and raised in Cork to an Anglo-Irish, Protestant and Unionist family. His father was a middle-class stockbroker who in 1892 decided to become a COI clergyman. As a sickly child, Robinson was educated at first by a private tutor.  In August 1907, his interest in the theatre began after he went to see an Abbey production of plays by Yeats and by Lady Gregory.  He published his first poem that same year.  His first play, The Cross Roads was performed in the Abbey in 1909 and he became Manager of the theatre towards the end of that year. He resigned in 1914 as a result of a disastrous tour of the United States but returned in 1919.  He was appointed to the board of the theatre in 1923 and continued to serve in that capacity until his death.

As a playwright, Robinson showed himself as a nationalist with plays like Patriots (1912) and Dreamers (1915).  On the other hand, he belonged to a part of Irish society which was not seen as fully Irish. This division between the "pure’ Catholic Irish on one side and the Anglo-Irish on the other can be seen in a play such as The Big House (1926), which depicts a burning of such a Protestant manor by Irregulars, or extreme Republicans.

Set between the years 1918-1923 the drama tells the story of Ballydonal House owned by the Alcocks and itself besieged by history. We see the expulsion of a family innocent of any wrongdoing in the community.  The house is betrayed from within and burned to the ground.

Bart Players from Belfast are perennial favourites at Newry Drama Festival.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) night is the turn of local group Newpoint who are performing Brian Friel’s Making History.

 

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