'We Are Here, We Were Here All Along'

By: Brenda O'connell  

This paper analyses Amy Conroy's 2010 play, 'I (Heart) Alice (Heart) I, which concerns the lesbian relationship between two characters, Alice Kinsella and Alice Slattery, both in their sixties. Fintan Walsh notes that Conroy is part of an emerging young generation of theatre makers who aim to represent 'older subjects who cannot represent themselves' (Walsh 84). Formulated as a documentary-style play, it is in every sense a domestic drama, revealing to the audience both the mundane and the extraordinary of the women's lives.The visibility of older women is dealt with in this play where, I argue, it becomes clear that queer ageing women remain relatively invisible in Irish society. As women age and gain more autonomy over their sexual preferences, Alice and Alice remain invisible to most, ultimately challenging one of the last remaining areas of persistent blindness in Irish contemporary culture - 'as women, as lesbians, as older people, and as older lesbians' (Walsh 94). While I argue that the play, a work of intergenerational dialogue, succeeds in normalizing older lesbians, thus recovering otherwise lost queer histories into cultural consciousness, it is less successful in its performance of age. Drawing on emerging discourses of ageing in drama, including the work of Elinor Fuchs and Valerie Barnes Lipscomb, I argue that Conroy's decision to cast herself and actor Clare Barrett, both in their thirties, to play the roles of the two Alices, is problematic and I challenge the notion that older female actors are unable to represent themselves on stage.

Ageing, Lesbians, Invisibility, Performing Age, Progressive Narrative
Social and Cultural Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Brenda O'connell

Tutor, English, Maynooth University, Ireland, Ireland

Brenda has a PhD in Irish theatre and performance, through the prism of Samuel Beckett's drama. She interrogated the representation of ageing women in his prose and drama, drawing on psychoanalysis, feminism, motherhood and age studies. She argued for age as a new category in identity studies and in Irish studies, alongside that of gender, race and ethnicity.