The Great Hunger and The Gallant John-Joe

By: Tom Mac Intyre

Publication Date: April 2002


The Great Hunger, Tom Mac Intyre’s internationally celebrated play of 1983, and The Gallant John-Joe, his most recent dramatic work, show Mac Intyre to be one of the most daringly and excitingly original Irish writers working today.

The Great Hunger is Mac Intyre’s version of Patrick Kavanagh’s long poem of the same name. It represents the life and dreams of Patrick Maguire, Monaghan small farmer and potato-gatherer, a man suffering from sexual and spiritual starvation. The play fuses image, movement and language into a classic of contemporary Irish drama.

The Gallant John-Joe is the soliloquy of John-Joe Concannon, a Cavan widower grappling with physical and mental infirmity and trying unsuccessfully to plumb the mysteries of his relationship with his troubled daughter. His Lear-like cry, by turns tragic and uproariously funny, is both instantly recognizable and marvellously strange, a creation only Mac Intyre could have brought to the stage, and the page.

‘The poem is about the way I was brought up. We’re talking about my life. It isn’t a penal poem lodged in the 1940s and 1950s. This is a poem about Ireland, saying at least in one aspect, “What are we going to do about the Patrick Maguire inside us?” Being brought up in Ireland everyone is affected by that malady of “Don’t touch me and I may not touch you.’ – Tom Mac Intyre

‘A torrent of mumblings and malapropisms, of mediaeval dialect and pop slang, of yearning tenderness and murderous xenophobic rantings.’ Irish Times

‘Tom Mac Intyre is in the forefront of the theatrical avant-garde in this country. From The Great Hunger to Kitty O’Shea, his plays are inventive and provoking, brimming with a heady mix of dramatic gesture, verbal zest, bodytalk. They make lightning and repeated raids on the erotic zones of consciousness and behaviour, challenging sexual repressions that can wreck the individual as well as rattle the body politic.’Eamon Grennan, Irish Times

‘Mac Intyre’s work seems astonishingly singular. He is the only one who completely takes off where Beckett left off. The dream landscapes of his theatre work in the eighties are to me the most significant thing that was happening in theatre.’Michael Harding


TOM MAC INTYRE, born in Cavan in 1931, is the author of many works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry as well as plays. His next novel, Story of a Girl, is forthcoming in 2003.



‘The writing is caged lightning … as a reader, I find myself increasingly impatient of any kind of writing, prose or poetry, which does not bring with it the coiled energy, the dark tincture of the unconscious. Every line of this writing throbs with it. Here is the cutting edge of evolutionary language, the actual coalface of intellect and emotion, where mind and body-language meet.’Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill


‘Mac Intyre has influenced a powerful bilingual mix of writers, including Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Dermot Healy, Marina Carr and Michael Harding, not to mention the undoubtedly physical influence of his drama on stagecraft and theatrical direction in this country … Stories of the Wandering Moon is a perfect introduction to Mac Intyre country for those who have never been there before. The words are all that matter; each word is given full force as if the reader was hearing it spoken for the first time. Everything lives in the words on the page, literally, because for Mac Intyre language becomes a route in and out of experience.’Gerald Dawe, Irish Times

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Weight 0.25 kg
Dimensions 130 × 200 mm
Publication Date

April 2002


Paperback, 96pp