Productions of Deevy’s work

This panel analyses and considers how productions of Deevy’s dramatic work were translated from dramatic to theatrical texts. Thank you to Dr Cathy Leeney (Paper 1) and Professor Emerita Charlotte Headrick (Paper 2) for sharing their scholarship and reflections.

To join the conversation, please use the ‘Leave a reply’ section which you can find underneath each paper.

How do I access the recorded papers? Scroll down through the title, the presenter’s name, and abstract to the recorded paper link. Follow the instructions with regards to closed captions if you wish to switch on captions. Scroll to the end of the page to select page 2, and so forth, which will bring you to the next paper.

Paper 1

Title: ‘Grace to withstand you’: Staging Young Women in Relationship in Teresa Deevy’s work. 

Dr Cathy Leeney (Adjunct UCD)


What is the theatrical vocabulary through which theatre stages the flow of power in intimate relationships? This paper will consider how what is ‘given to be seen’ operates to define representations of intimacy between girls or young women, and men in work by Teresa Deevy, and that of some of her contemporaries. The paper suggests therefore the role of scenography in making meaning for audiences, and thus the labile possibilities of Irish plays from the early decades of the twentieth century as they may be staged in our own century. 

Laura Mulvey and John Berger have analysed gendered ways of looking and seeing, and Mulvey has identified in cinema the aesthetic of the male gaze, connecting to the idea of ‘looked-at-ness’ in females.  Contexts in which woman is framed as object or image to be looked at, and man is the bearer of the look, have given rise to women’s intense resistance to controlling surveillance of the female body on stage. Dissonance between women and men about how they look and what they see destabilises how performance makes meaning in exciting and controversial ways. 

Irish drama since the early twentieth century is marked by several influential plays that, with careful discretion, explore the social and sexual issues involved in the power play of heterosexual relationship. Key aspects of staging such as language, body and space seem to shape how the dynamic of power operates, and the 2017 staging of Teresa Deevy’s Katie Roche at the Abbey Theatre, is a case in point.  

I aim to lay out some arguments about how girls and women, in sexual relationship with men, appear in performance, and to use some examples of performance that raise issues between textual meaning and staged meaning. 

How do I access this recorded presentation?

  1. Copy this passcode: S+x4KC%z
  2. Click on the image below which will open the link to the UCD Zoom page.
  3. Paste in the passcode when prompted to do so.
  4. To access the captions: before you press play, click on the CC button, or the subtitles icon, and select audio transcript.
  5. Press play and enjoy!


Cathy Leeney is currently adjunct lecturer in Drama Studies at UCD where she worked from 1995 to 2016. Her chief research and teaching interests have been feminist theatre, women in Irish theatre, gender in performance and directing. Her recent publications and presentations have been on contemporary Irish theatre practice, Irish Women Playwrights including Teresa Deevy, Christine Longford, and Maura Laverty and interculturality in theatre making. In 2017 she directed a rehearsed reading of Eritrean playwright’s Alemseged Tesfai’s The Other War as part of the Festival of Black Irish Theatre at Project Arts Centre, and in 2020 was directing a collaborative project Now Is a Moveable Feast for performance on Poetry Day 2020 which became a radio broadcast on QFM independent radio. She is co-editing Analyzing Gender in Performance (due from Palgrave Macmillan 2021) and working co-editing the publication, with Liverpool University Press, a volume of three plays by Maura Laverty. 

8 replies on “Productions of Deevy’s work”

Dear Charlotte, thanks for your thriving picture of Deevy’s theatre in the US and for your key contributions to it – it is inspiring, and sets a challenge for, well, other locations. The excerpt from your staging of the King of Spain’s Daughter was fascinating! Thanks again!


Cathy, a superbly insightful analysis of Caroline Byrne’s exciting and inspiring production of Katie Roche in the Abbey in 2017 and a wonderful recollection of Judy Friel’s production of the same play in 1995 (which I didn’t see but wish I had). Your presentation articulated how haunted I felt, following that production, by the character of Katie. As ever, you enable me to better see and understand my experiences of live theatre and you rightly celebrate what it helps us to realise, achieve and understand as a society. Thank you so much for this paper – leading the way in Deevy scholarship as ever!


Dear Cathy, Kate here. Thank you so much for this rich, semiotic reading of Deevy’s ‘Katie Roche’, and Judy Friel’s and Caroline Byrne’s productions. The focus on embodiment really resonated with me, as did the idea that this text (and its various iterations in productions) challenges the audience in its effort to, as you say, uproot us. Your analysis of Katie Roche as both a text and character at different points in time (1936, 1994, and 2017) prompted me to reflect on the current power struggles between women and the State, and why Deevy’s work remains relevant to these conversations.


Dear Cathy – thanks so much for this fascinating and challenging talk. I was really struck by your teasing out of the idea that the ‘power to create meaning resides as much if not more in body and space than in narrative’. I will enjoy thinking this through in the case of Deevy and reflecting on how her texts can accommodate these contemporary reinterpretations!


Dear Charlotte – I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed both your paper and the excerpt from the play. The ‘shadowing’ technique is transformative and so strong in how it seemed to underline the complexity of the characters and the physicality of the performances overall. I liked the set too. And you will never believe this, but I had heard of this production from an Oregon student on a summer Study Abroad programme I teach on in Galway. I was intrigued but terribly confused….. and now – mystery solved! It is wonderful to know that Deevy is being produced in Oregon. Thanks so much for sharing your insights and your work on this production.


Ah, Cathy, how wonderful to finally meet you, even through cyberspace! Wonderful presentation with your vivid descriptions of the differences between the two productions was excellent. My husband Dan, who is a set designer, also loved your observations. Great work, and many thanks!


Hi Cathy,

I have rewatched your paper a few times (and will a few more before the conference is over!). Like Caoilfhionn, your comment, ‘the power to create meaning resides as much if not more in body and space than in narrative’, really resonated with me. As you suggested during my PG2, I have narrowed the scope of my PhD and the spatial representation of women is now central to my work. I was in America on my Fulbright experience when the Abbey produced ‘Katie Roche’ in 2017 and I did not see the Judy Friel production so it was invaluable to hear your analysis of the productions and has really informed my current work – Thank you!



Dear Charlotte,

It was so amazing to see the work which is happening in America and to see a video clip of the production. The inclusion of sign language interpreters within the performance worked so smoothly and I can only imagine that it would be a production that would have thrilled Deevy!

Kind regards



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