Dreamland is set in the summer of 1934 in a village on the south coast of Ireland. Johnny Kinnane, a returned ‘Yank’, has a plan to create an amusement park built around the bones of a giant whale that’s washed up on the local shore. A cast of spirited characters in his orbit display their hopes and disappointments and enduring goodness.
Meanwhile into the unspoken horrors of Ireland’s recent history and the threats of Blueshirt bullies to impose their way come a Jewish musician and his daughter, fleeing from the fomenting atmosphere of Hitler’s rise to power.
A leading Irish playwright, Jim Nolan, in this ‘enormously courageous play’ (Emer O’Kelly), asserts the compulsions, the power and the price of dreams.
Jim Nolan’s latest is full of captivating outsiders
Jim Nolan’s latest offering is a very Irish play. It unfolds at a sparsely populated pub in a small town. There is a sense that this Waterford village is cordoned off; self-contained, self-governing and self-harming. Frustrations and regret bubble below the surface and the fresh country air is polluted by all that goes unsaid. Set in 1934, it deals with civil-war politics while touching lightly on the wider world.
Dreamland resonates, in particular, with the work of Wexford playwright Billy Roche. All politics is local — and when it comes to great stories, you could say the same of truth. The modest scale of the events that unfold in Dreamland is what makes the play most compelling.
— Eithne Shortall, Sunday Times Culture
Bold Look at Shameful Past
Jim Nolan’s new play Dreamland is enormously courageous: the first attempt on stage, to the best of my knowledge, to tackle Ireland’s fascist past head-on. He puts two men in blue shirts on stage, the visual impact chilling in itself; but they are joined in guilt in the authorial dock by their political opponents.
— Emer O’Kelly, Sunday Independent Living
The production ultimately celebrates the integrity of the human spirit and is characterised by gentle good humour, but Nolan closes down the comedy when necessary to create a penetrating critique of self-serving politics, a national tendency towards group-thinking, and the danger of devaluing art and the individual. The many references to J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World align Dreamland with a type of Irish theatre that asks questions about the kind of society we create and what motivates us to act and behave as we do.
At a time when many in Ireland unwittingly accept a neo-liberalist agenda that prioritises corporations over communities and economic gain over personal fulfilment, Dreamland suggests that an alternative to the greed and self-interest that has so dominated Irish politics in recent times is possible. Promoting the ideals of personal freedom and collective responsibility, the play also acknowledges the value of those idealistic few who dare to march to the beat of their own drum.
— Úna Kealy, The Irish Theatre Magazine
Year Published: 2014
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 612 5
ISBN HBK: 978 1 85235 613 2