Shadow of the Glen

JM Synge

Totton: Friday 22nd March 2013

Directed by Di Wallsgrove

The first round of the All England Theatre Festival (Western Area, Southern Division) is usually held at the Hanger Farm Arts Centre in Totton. Bench Theatre first entered the festival competition in 2006 and has been a regular contributor ever since.

AuthorJM Synge

JM Synge

John Millington Synge was born in Rathfarnham, Ireland, in 1871. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, he also studied piano and violin at the Royal Irish Academy.

He moved to France and while in Paris in 1896 he met William Butler Yeats. On the advice of Yeats he settled among the people of the Aran Islands (1899-1902). This experience inspired the plays In the Shadow of the Glen (1903) and the Riders to the Sea (1904).

In 1904 Synge and Yeats became joint directors of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Later plays by Synge included the highly successful The Playboy of the Western World (1907), The Tinker's Wedding (1909) and Deirdre of the Sorrows (1909).

Synge also published the books Aran Islands (1907) and Poems and Translations (1909). John Millington Synge died of Hodgkin's Disease in 1909.

PlaysShadow of the Glen

A one-act play, written in the summer of 1902, The Shadow of the Glen was the first of Synge's plays to be staged in 1903. Nora Burke is married to Dan, a sheep farmer many years her elder, and they live in 'the last cottage at the head of a long glen in County Wicklow'. Dan shams death, but not before he put Nora under 'a black curse' not to touch his body and insist only his sister should lay him out. Nora observes all the rites of a wake with a passing Tramp who begs shelter from the wet night. Nora begs to be excused and leaves the Tramp alone in order to call to a young neighbouring sheep farmer, Michael Dara.

Once she is gone, Dan Burke sits up. He shares his suspicions and his schemes with the Tramp and assumes his sham death-pose before Nora and Michael enter. Michael is hatching plans for Dan's legacy and Nora's thoughts are taking on an unexpected dark complexion, when Dan announces himself with a sneeze. Dan banishes his wife from the house and the Tramp takes up her cause, soothing her with fine words to win her over to a life on the road. They leave together, the pair behind complimenting each other over whiskey. First performed at the Molesworth Hall, Dublin, on the 8th October, 1903, it was condemned as 'a slur on Irish womanhood' by prominent nationalist, Arthur Griffith. It was first published with Riders to the Sea by Elkin Mathews, London, in 1905.

The Bench Competition Entry

This one-act play will be staged at the Hanger Farm Arts Centre, Totton as part of the first round of the All England Theatre Festival 2013 competition.


Claire Lyne
Terry Smyth
David Penrose
James Hall


Director Di Wallsgrove
Stage Managers Thomas Hall