Joseph O’Connor reads from Shadowplay on Book on One
The Opening Book on One for November continues the focus in this series of authors reading from their scriptures. Joseph O’Connor presents excerpts from Shadowplay, his Irish novel of the year 2019 – listen to the first part above.
Listen to it on weekdays at 11.20 p.m. on RTÉ Radio 1 or whenever you want for four weeks after the broadcast here.
“Everyone plays almost all the time …”
The choice of Shadowplay is particularly timely in many ways and was only recently taped by the writer in his Dublin home. There are many things in the book. It is an ode to the art of the stage and the infectiousness and irresistibility of live theater and performance, and all the more poignant when we cannot experience it for the time being. It explores the nature of creativity as it invades the mind and imagination of Bram Stoker, who created Dracula, the now famous Gothic novel, the success of which was too late for Stoker to see it in his life.
Shadowplay celebrates friendship in all of its wonderful complexities, secrets, betrayal, and forgiveness through the early, middle, and later life of the novel’s three main intertwined characters. In addition to Bram Stoker, it is Henry Irving, a larger-than-life actor and impresario who is believed to be the creator of the concept of the celebrity actor whose job offer at the Lyceum Theater brings Stoker to London. and Ellen Terry, the leading actress of her time, whose spirit is said to haunt the Lyceum Theater today.
O’Connor immerses us in a time only decades away from the great Irish famine, with all of its haunting horrors that are still very much present in Ireland in the 1870s and the stokers in the novel on his travels in the West of Ireland for him experienced work as a young employee of the British Empire, employed at Dublin Castle. London, the other city whose atmosphere and activities dominate the book and where Stoker and his new wife are moving to run the Lyceum Theater, is terrorized by the killer known as The Ripper. It is also the city in the novel where Oscar Wilde, at his meteoric height, makes an unforgettable appearance at the Lyceum and whose later fall causes wild waves of unrest and fear of what this might mean for others.
Shadowplay is now available in paperback and is published by Harvill Secker. Book on One broadcasts weekdays at 11.20pm during Cathal Murray’s Late Date on RTÉ Radio 1. All episodes of Book on One can also be played here for four weeks after they have been broadcast.