An Abbey co-production with Eilene Davidson Productions, this world premiere gives voice to the women who were central to the life of James Joyce.  

With previews opening on the 17th of September, the Abbey team has had the great privilege of having Edna O’Brien here on Abbey Street. She has been in the rehearsal room with the cast and creative team, sharing thoughts with director, Conall Morrison.  

Speaking about the production on RTÉ Radio 1’s Arena with Sean Rocks, Edna O’Brien described the writing process, and detailed how a dream led her to write Joyce’s Women as a dream play. While writing, Joyce appeared to her in a dream and said “Give her a chance.” 

This moment of inspiration set off a creative spark and freedom ensued. Speaking on this Ms O’Brien said:  

“It’s a dream play with reality and dream colliding and by that I was able to have freedom, the freedom to bring anyone in at any moment, his jealous brother who has come back to curse him, his wife whom he saw looking through a window of a fur shop, and I was able to juggle with time, with characters and therefore with drama. As I have learned from failures, drama is not fiction, drama is drama…Drama is a series of traps, no point in sitting there and watching a nice little cosy or even un-cosy series of events, something dangerous happens in every scene, a danger with consequences.” 

As Joyce loved Dublin, “Joyce loved Dublin, he just didn’t love what they did to him”, Edna O’Brien loves her home county of Clare. As one of Ireland’s greatest contemporary writers Edna O’Brien spoke of the resonance Clare holds for her: 

‘I’ll tell you when it holds it very much; that first thing of the weather, the breeze is different, the sunshine this week is very different. It holds you forever, especially if you’re a writer. Your childhood, it’s like a tree when it’s first planted and the soil and the fertilizing that tree is given or whatever wind and rain and battering – forms you and therefore is all in you. And at times you repress it because you have to, you’ll go mad if you keep remembering everything, and at other times it sets you on a flow of inspiration. So, it holds you back and it also gives you freedom to soar.”  

The Abbey Theatre as Ireland’s national theatre are delighted to be able to host and create this vision of Joyce’s Women for audiences. Tickets are on sale now. 

Click here to listen to Edna herself talk through the production, her inspiration, the characters and how her home country has formed her. As she told Sean Rocks, “I would not be anything else, only Irish.”

Imagery: Ste Murray