Many theatre artists are now faced with having their work pulled from the stage or rehearsals cancelled because of Covid-19. There is a culture in the theatre that "the show must go on" no matter what, and it sometimes plays out that way.
Anna Manahan continued with a Gate Theatre tour of Egypt in 1956, despite her husband, the director Colm O'Kelly, dying on the tour in Alexandria. The night of his death, Manahan went on stage and dedicated her performance in A Moon for the Misbegotten to his memory.
After the Abbey Theatre fire in 1951, the company immediately transferred operations to the Rupert Guinness Theatre in the Liberties, smoke rising from their props as they crossed the town, not missing a single night's performance.
Noel Pearson's production of West Side Story in 1974 fell victim to a collapsing proscenium arch in the Olympia Theatre on the day it was due to open; the collapse luckily happened during lunchtime, or there would have been serious injuries. Pearson opened the show in the State Theatre in Phibsboro that same night instead - he still had the keys from his previous run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and he opened it there without any permissions secured.
But even the most tenacious thespians can't argue with an invisible corona-shaped enemy. And there were other enemies that the theatre couldn't fight off either.
During World War II in 1940, Roly Poly, an adaptation by Lennox Robinson of a Guy de Maupassant short story, was ordered off the Gate stage by the Irish government after only three performances; complaints were received from the German and Vichy French legations and the theatre was accused of having violated the Emergency legislation.
The play was about a French prostitute who gives herself up to save the passengers on a train carriage, only to be shunned by them afterwards.
The Rose Tattoo, playing the Dublin Theatre Festival of 1957, was shut down by the police owing to allegations of lewdness: in the stage directions, a character drops a condom. In fact, in the Dublin production, this was mimed.
Director Alan Simpson was arrested on a summary warrant, the sort normally reserved for IRA members and armed criminals. The play finished its short Dublin Theatre Festival run at the tiny Pike theatre, but its scheduled lucrative transfer to the Gate was cancelled.
Seán O'Casey's play, The Drums of Father Ned, was strangled very early on, before it got near the stage.
It was scheduled for inclusion in the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1958, but an enraged Archbishop John Charles McQuaid refused to say Mass to inaugurate the festival if it contained work by the playwright who was seen as a dangerous Godless communist. O'Casey was bumped into withdrawing his play, and subsequently refused to allow any of his work to be performed in Ireland until 1964, just before his death.
The Ginger Man by JP Donleavy, starring Richard Harris, transferred to the Gaiety in Dublin after a hit London run in 1959. It gathered a lot of morally hostile reviews. McQuaid took exception to it and demanded changes. Donleavy obviously could not accede. The Gaiety management caved in to the clerical pressure and the show was summarily ejected from the stage after just three performances.
The coronavirus pandemic could be called an act of God, and possibly Archbishop McQuaid considered his actions to be an act of God also. The world throws up many obstacles, but the theatrical spirit is hard to suppress. Like in Dion Boucicault's play The Shaughraun, the stilled body laid out at the wake merely presages a flamboyant and spectacular resurrection.