Three Plays

Robin Glendinning

About the book…

Few playwrights have explored the complex political, social and moral dilemmas of life in the north of Ireland as profoundly as Robin Glendinning. Mumbo Jumbo (1985) is set in an exclusive Belfast grammar school, aping the traditions and manners of the English public model, and centres on the sexual and political awakening of two classmates: the poetic and idealistic Dunham and his diehard unionist friend, Creaney. 

Beyond the middle-class niceties, the play's enclosed world acidly reflects the sectarian bitterness of the society outside. Donny Boy (1990) probes the tensions between self-deception and the grim reality of life in Northern Ireland. 

Ma, a flag-waving republican, raises her slow-witted son, Donny, on her own. As the play unfolds, layers of truths and half-truths are peeled off to reveal the sordid reality behind the tales of gallant deeds and the posturings of heroic idealism. 

Set in the immediate aftermath of the ceasefires, Summerhouse (1994), explores unionist unease with the new political situation. As Eva and Jimmy watch their home literally and metaphorically crumbling around them, Glendinning deftly turns the stereotype of Ulster Protestantism on its head to present a more nuanced imaginative hinterland. 

Introduced by the critic and theatre director David Grant, these plays are a significant landmark in the history of contemporary Northern Irish drama.

Photo of the author, Robin Glendinning

About the author…

Robin Glendinning was born in 1938, Belfast. Educated at Campbell College and Trinity College, Dublin, he received an Honours Degree min Modern History and Political Science.

A founder of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, he was a fulltime organiser for the party for two and half years during the height of the Troubles in the 1970s. He has had five plays produced for stage: Stuffing It (Tricycle Theatre, 1982) Culture Vultures (Lyric Players Theatre, 1988), Mumbo Jumbo (Manchester Royal Exchange and Lyric Hammersmith, 1986 – joint winner of the Mobil Theatre Award 1986), Donny Boy (Manchesster Royal Exchange, Theatre Royal Oslo, 1991), winner of the Manchester Evening News and Martini Rossi Provincial Theatre Award for Best New Play of 1991 and Summerhouse (Druid Theatre, Galway, 1994).

He has written more than twenty radio plays for the BBC, winning nominations for Sony Award for Condemning Violence (1987) and a Giles Cooper Award for The Words Are Strange (1991). A television play, A Night of the Campaign, was produced by BBC Northern in 1987.

He also writes short stories, many of which have been published by journals throughout Britain and Ireland.