The Shadow of A Gunman – Rhinegold Publishing

The Shadow of A Gunman


The tasks in this scheme are aimed at helping students prepare for the requirements of the exam and thus will look at approaching The Shadow of a Gunman from the point of view of an actor, director or designer. I always suggest that my students, prepare their own overall concept for a virtual production of the play, and one way of doing this is to keep an ongoing scrapbook of ideas and sketches as we discuss the play in lessons. Ideally this should be an A5 art book into which they can stick research papers, pictures and information about previous productions, add notes on characters and thematic ideas discussed in class and eventually come up with their own plans for their own virtual production. It should also include their sketches of characters with costume ideas, suggested set designs and simple blocking ideas for individual scenes. This, alongside their annotated text of the play, becomes their focus for this work and the most useful revision aid when it comes close to the exam. One of the joys of The Shadow of a Gunman is that it is a comparatively short play.

Consequently, it can be read quickly before the serious work begins. The following suggested sessions assume that this has been done and that the students have a passing knowledge of the events and characters within the play. Once students have done this reading, either in class together or as a set piece of homework before the lessons begin, the first session must focus on context.

The Shadow of a Gunman is one of three plays written by Sean O’Casey that portray life in the slums of Dublin. They are naturalistic plays, but also deal with complex philosophical ideas, such as the existence of God, and engage with issues that are universal rather than just being specific to the Irish Civil War. For this reason, they are also considered to have symbolic elements and are of interest across the world, not just within the narrow definition of Irish drama.

Clearly, The Shadow of a Gunman has a defined historical and social context that cannot be ignored. It is, however, possible to set the play in a modern context, yet this has the additional challenge of ensuring that the themes of the play are entirely relevant to the setting. I would suggest that for the purposes of the exam it is safer to keep your students to the original 1920s Dublin setting, but that should not prevent
wider discussions in class of the relevance of the text to life today.

Three approaches:

  • The set-designer’s approach
  • The actor’s approach
  • The director’s approach

Number of schemes: n/a

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