John Bull's Other Island

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

John Bull's Other Island is a comedy about Ireland, written by G. Bernard Shaw in 1904. Shaw himself was born in Dublin, yet this is the only play of his where he thematically returned to his homeland.

The play deals with Larry Doyle, originally from Ireland, but who has turned his back on his heritage to fit in with the English and Tom Broadbent, his English (and very Machiavellian) business partner. They are civil engineers who run a firm in London. They go to Roscullen, where Doyle was born, to develop some land.

Doyle has no illusions about Ireland while Broadbent is taken with the romance of the place. Broadbent, a lively man who seemingly is not always aware of the impression he makes, becomes a favourite of the people. Before the play is over, it is clear he will marry Nora Reilly, the woman waiting for Doyle (who is more than happy to let her go) and become the area's candidate for Parliament after Doyle refuses to stand, but has also 'called in' all his loans given "so easily" to the locals against their homes and intends (as he had planned all along) to make the village into an amusement park.

Another major character is the defrocked priest Peter (Father) Keegan, the political and temperamental opposite of Broadbent, who sees through him from the beginning and warns the locals against him.

The play was commissioned by W.B. Yeats for the opening of Dublin's Abbey Theatre, but Yeats rejected it as too long, too controversial and too difficult to produce.

The play premiered in London at the Royal Court Theatre on November 1, 1904, under the Vedrenne-Barker management. Due to its length, Barker, with Shaw's consent but not approval, cut the play somewhat. The role of Tom Broadbent was created by Louis Calvert.

It was a great success and the Court would go on to produce many other Shaw plays, both old and new.

Dealing with the Irish question of the time, the play was seen by many major British political figures. A command performance was given for King Edward VII. He laughed so hard he broke his chair. This incident was widely reported and—after more than a decade of playwriting—Shaw's name was made in London.

As popular as the play was originally, it is not one of Shaw's more revived pieces.

Notable productions[edit]

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin 1987: Cyril Cusack as Keegan, Marc Sinden as Broadbent, Ian McElhinney as Doyle and Kate O'Toole as Nora. Directed by Joe Dowling. Produced by Noel Pearson. Sinden took over the role five days before the First Night, after the original actor broke his wrist in a fall in rehearsal.[1]


  1. ^