The Dream Physician by Edward Martyn
The inaugural play of the Irish Theatre, Edward Martyn's The Dream Physician (1914).
The Dream Physician was the inaugural play of the Irish Theatre a new dramatic venture set up in 1914 by Martyn, Thomas MacDonagh, and Joseph Plunkett and ‘conceived as an alternative to the commercial playhouses and to the peasant drama of the Abbey Theatre’ (Feeney). The Dream physician was first performed in the Little Theatre in O’Connell Street from 2nd to 7th of November 1914. The play is a parody against three Irish Literary Theatre directors George Moore (‘George Augustus Moon, an old journalist’), W.B. Yeats (‘Beau Brummel, a musician’), and Augusta Gregory (‘Sister Fernan, a hospital nurse). According to Jerry Nolan, Martyn’s satire in the play was aimed a number of fixations of the literary theatre directors: ‘the cult of egotistical interpretation of events, the posturings of self appointed geniuses, poetic incantations, occult practices, Fiona McLeod-William Sharpe style of Celtic verse, and Lady Gregory Kiltartanese.’ An example of this parodic mode is the scuffle at the end of Act IV, when an improvised séance with an eighteenth century wash-hand stand and with Sister Farnan as a medium degenerates when the wash-hand stand is broken by Moon:
BRUMMELL. And just when the oracle was about to culminate in some stupendous utterance—Oh! To have it ignorantly and barbarously shattered like this—!
MOON. Look here, Brummell, I can’t stand you any longer. I’ll be quite frank with you. I admit you are a very good musician, or at least you were once. But I assure you that you are at the same time the most egregious intellectual fop the world has ever seen.
BRUMMELL. What do you mean, Moon? You know you cannot compose unless the female typist is at hand to flatter and call everything you produce a masterpiece.
MOON (very excited). Not at all—you take it for granted that I am dried up like yourself.
BRUMMELL (scornfully). Magnificent insolence—! But you can only think like a child. [They shake their fists in each other’s face. MISS WHELAN drops the fragments and flies out by the door at back calling for the Police. She is quickly followed by GERRARD, and by SISTER FARNAN, who bears off Audrey. MOON seizes the washhand-stand and defends himself, as BRUMMELL raises the banjo in order to strike him.]
Interestingly, Brummell-Yeats’s comment on Moon-Moore’s typist has been rendered in one of the caricatures by Grace Gifford, published in the frontispiece of the last issue of the Irish Review (September/November 1914).
Feeney, William. ‘Irish Theatre, The (1914-1920)’. Dictionary of Irish Literature. Ed. Robert Hogan. London: Aldwych Press, 1996. Print.
Martyn, Edward. The Dream Physician. Dublin: Talbot Press, 1915. Print.
Nolan, Jerry. ‘Edward Martyn’s Struggle for an Irish National Theater, 1899-1920’. New Hibernia Review. Vol. 7, N. 2, Samhradh/Summer 2003. Print.