A play about one world giving way painfully to another, The Lament for Arthur Cleary is enacted on the borders of life and death. In a series of smooth fragments, two acts tell the story of Arthur Cleary’s return to Dublin, and his relationship with Kathy, with the other characters shifting roles around them to summon the landscape of the city in the 1980s. But Arthur can’t find the city of his youth, and feels lost in the same streets he grew up in; the new Dublin, damaged by unemployment and heroin, is unrecognisable to him.
Bolger’s potent play is inspired by the Gaelic poem ‘Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoire’, a lament for a man who dies because he cannot bend his pride to the demands of oppressive English rule. The Lament for Arthur Cleary was first performed in 1989 at the Project Arts Centre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.