Purgatory, for the first time
Purgatory, Yeats 12th play at the Abbey Theatre was first performed in 1938. The most modernist of his plays, it is said to pre-figure Beckett. Seamus Heaney once said of the play “seeing Purgatory is like dreaming a dream that marks you for life”.
Purgatory was staged during the Abbey Theatre’s Festival of Irish Drama. This was a 12 day festival featuring 24 plays including The Plough and the Stars by Sean O’Casey, Kathleen Ni Houlihan and On Baile’s Strand also by W.B. Yeats and Riders to the Sea and The Well of the Saints by J.M. Synge.
In just 34 years, the Abbey Theatre had built up a substantial repertoire and the tradition of presenting a new play in the context of that wider body of work, was well underway. That Abbey tradition continues to this day.