J M Synge

The Royal Court Theatre, London

Design Tutor: Connor Murphy


The play is set during the early days of the twentieth century on the remote Irish Aran island of Inisheer. Maurya, a mother, and her two daughters, Cathleen and Nora, wait in silent dread for news of their brother Michael, who they fear has been lost at sea. With the sea claiming the lives of her four eldest sons, Maurya tries in vain to dissuade her last son, Bartley, from making the same trip and meeting the same fate.


The setting is centred on the hearth of the main room of the family's cottage . The cottage is set on a rock which plunges into the sea. Maurya's bedroom, where she is seen sleeping as the audience enters, is located up a few steps within the stage left box of the theatre. Behind the cottage rises the rocky walls of the island containing the fields and the ever present cemetery A stone country path leads away from the front door of the house. A cyclorama, which is lit from blue to orange as the day gradually passes, stretches across the back of the stage.

The costumes are true to the native clothing worn on the island. Traditional red petticoats are worn by the older keening women as they mourn the loss of Bartley.


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An early concept for setting the drama on an abstracted wave, rising over a cemetery, with fragmented elements - a chimney, a door, a bed, a spinning wheel - scattered upon it.
Riders to the Sea
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