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Donnellys


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A: James Reaney Pf: (1) 1973, Toronto; (2) 1974, Toronto; (3) 1975, Toronto Pb: (1) 1974; (2) 1976; (3) 1977 G: Trilogy of hist. drama, each in 3 acts S: Ontario, (1) 1844–67; (2) 1873–9; (3) 1880 C: 7m, 4f, extras (played by 11 actors)(1) Sticks and Stones. In 1844 Donnelly and his wife emigrate from Ireland and come to live in the Biddulph Township near London, Ontario, an area full of sectarian tension between Catholics and Protestants. They raise seven sons and one daughter, and the family becomes notorious in the district, instigating murder and arson, and suffering themselves as victims of violence. The father is sentenced to seven years for murder, their barn is burnt down and their water pump destroyed, but they refuse to be driven out. (2) The St Nicholas Hotel – Wm. Donnelly Prop. It is now 1873, and Will Donnelly, owner of the hotel, reminisces about the deaths of his two brothers in the 1870s. The Donnellys have now set up a stagecoach line, which is opposed with tollgates, and eventually this leads to the murder of Michael Donnelly. Another brother dies of tuberculosis, and yet another is sentenced to two years in prison for assault. Throughout, a Chorus ‘in a drifting voice’ refers to other events from 1875, the 1880s, 1891, and 1925. (3) Handcuffs. The events of the final part of the trilogy are seen in flashback from the early 1970s. In the graveyard of St Patrick's, Biddulph, which has become a tourist attraction, a trial is re-enacted. It returns us to 1880, the year when a ‘Vigilante Committee’ murdered the two parents, two sons, and a cousin, Bridget. James Carroll, the leader of the vigilantes, was acquitted in a local court, and no one was convicted of the murders.This is one of the major plays of Canadian theatre, a vast historical panorama which embraces events and attitudes not only in the 19th century but also in post-war Canada, and which employs a large variety of theatrical devices: shifting time-frames, the supernatural, song and dance. The Donnellys are like Canadian versions of Ned Kelly's gang: thoroughly disreputable, but curiously likeable and gaining sympathy through their unjust treatment by the local community.

A: James Reaney Pf: (1) 1973, Toronto; (2) 1974, Toronto; (3) 1975, Toronto Pb: (1) 1974; (2) 1976; (3) 1977 G: Trilogy of hist. drama, each in 3 acts S: Ontario, (1) 1844–67; (2) 1873–9; (3) 1880 C: 7m, 4f, extras (played by 11 actors)

(1) Sticks and Stones. In 1844 Donnelly and his wife emigrate from Ireland and come to live in the Biddulph Township near London, Ontario, an area full of sectarian tension between Catholics and Protestants. They raise seven sons and one daughter, and the family becomes notorious in the district, instigating murder and arson, and suffering themselves as victims of violence. The father is sentenced to seven years for murder, their barn is burnt down and their water pump destroyed, but they refuse to be driven out. (2) The St Nicholas Hotel – Wm. Donnelly Prop. It is now 1873, and Will Donnelly, owner of the hotel, reminisces about the deaths of his two brothers in the 1870s. The Donnellys have now set up a stagecoach line, which is opposed with tollgates, and eventually this leads to the murder of Michael Donnelly. Another brother dies of tuberculosis, and yet another is sentenced to two years in prison for assault. Throughout, a Chorus ‘in a drifting voice’ refers to other events from 1875, the 1880s, 1891, and 1925. (3) Handcuffs. The events of the final part of the trilogy are seen in flashback from the early 1970s. In the graveyard of St Patrick's, Biddulph, which has become a tourist attraction, a trial is re-enacted. It returns us to 1880, the year when a ‘Vigilante Committee’ murdered the two parents, two sons, and a cousin, Bridget. James Carroll, the leader of the vigilantes, was acquitted in a local court, and no one was convicted of the murders.

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Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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