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Moon in the Yellow River


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A: Denis Johnston Pf: 1931, Dublin Pb: 1932 G: Drama in 3 acts S: An old fort on the Liffey Estuary, Ireland, 1927 C: 7m, 3fDobelle, a distinguished but disillusioned railway engineer, lives in an old fort near the sea with his daughter Blanaid, whom he rejects because she was the cause of her mother's death in childbirth. The fort also houses the workshop of two eccentric inventors who are working on an improved gun. A German engineer Tausch comes to oversee the installation of a new power plant in the estuary. Local rebel elements strongly oppose the desecration of their country with this new technology. When their leader Blake arrives with some men to blow up the power station, Tausch summons assistance. Blake is shot in cold blood, and Tausch is horrified, believing that they could have settled their differences. Dobelle believes otherwise, saying that Blake and his kind will always want to keep the reflection of the moon in the river. The two inventors carelessly throw away one of their shells believing it to be a dud, and it blows up the power station. The only good to come of it all is that Dobelle is reconciled with his daughter.

A: Denis Johnston Pf: 1931, Dublin Pb: 1932 G: Drama in 3 acts S: An old fort on the Liffey Estuary, Ireland, 1927 C: 7m, 3f

Johnston's second and best-known play, which was performed at the Abbey Theatre, shows that he could write interestingly in realistic as well as in Expressionist mode, although admittedly the strange setting and odd characters lend a slightly surreal air to the action. As in The Old Lady Says ‘No!’, Johnston criticizes contemporary Ireland, both the government's high-handed attitude to local sensitivities (as evidenced in the Free State's Shannon Scheme of 1925) and the hot-headed response of romantic rebels.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Denis Johnston (1901—1984) playwright and broadcaster


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