Men Of Ireland / The Men In Me
© By John Carson
A performance examining Irish male stereotypes.
Artwork copyright: John Carson
YEAR PERFORMANCE CREATED1980
YEAR FIRST PERFORMED1980
ARTISTS PERSPECTIVE OF CONTEXT OF PERFORMANCE TO TROUBLES
Set against a seventies backdrop of civil unrest, economic and industrial decline, and a British government struggling to come to terms with the legacy of its colonial control over Northern Ireland - Men of Ireland/The Men In Me was a performance which examined Irish male stereotypes. I also considered the 9 characters in the performance, to be aspects of my own personality, conditioned by a Northern Irish upbringing. Each suitably attired character in turn enacted a 20-minute routine, surrounded by a circle of life-size wooden ‘cutouts’ of all 9 characters. Each cameo was accompanied by a recorded sound track of appropriate popular songs.
The first character in the arena was the worker, who set the scene by painting a map of Ireland inside the circle formed by the 9 cutout figures. The 4 sections of the map corresponded to the 4 provinces of Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught. Ulster was painted orange and the other 3 provinces were painted green.
Next the clergyman symbolized the religious indoctrination, which determined and defined Northern Ireland’s 2 principal communities. The orangeman then marched in to assert the Protestant/Loyalist ascendency. The youth danced blithely over the painted map, irreverently messing up and mixing up the orange and the green. The romantic represented the artist/poet/philosopher trying to rise above the malaise of bigotry, hatred and violence that was prevalent at the time. The shillelagh wielding, dancing Paddy Irishman happily reinforced the clichéd stereotype of cod Irishness. The masked paramilitary figure stood for the terrorists on both sides of the sectarian divide, who were holding the country to ransom back in the seventies. The businessman was indifferent to the mutual destructiveness of both communities, as long as it did not significantly affect his commercial or economic interests. Last in the arena was the drunk, finding solace along a drink-fueled road to oblivion.