The Craft of Irish Acting: The Abbey Theatre and The Film Company of Ireland

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Established in 1904, the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s national theatre, developed a form of natural acting that was unique in the British Isles at that time. This style complemented the peasant plays popular at the Abbey that were part of the Celtic Revival of Irish culture. This acting emphasized stillness, focused on the spoken word and all movement was carefully choreographed. J. M. Kerrigan and Fred O’Donovan were two of the most important actors in the Abbey Theatre, Kerrigan was praised as a character actor, he was also one of the teachers at the theatre, O’Donovan generally took leading man roles and also directed some plays. In 1916 these two stage actors became the first film directors of the Film Company of Ireland, the first significant Irish fiction film company. Their influence was significant, Kerrigan was involved in casting and O’Donovan directed the first feature length film. Their training as stage actors set the tone for the films they directed.

Veronica Johnson (National University of Ireland, Galway)

Veronica Johnson teaches film studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She is currently working on a project about the early days of the film industry in Ireland with a focus on the Film Company of Ireland. She has published her research in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.