Wing, Paula. The King of Ireland’s Son. 1999. 41 pp. A Ireland is in the middle of a story-drought and needs a hero to save it from a future absence of legends, allegories, or tall tales. Enter Sean Ruadh--Sean the Red--the King of Ireland’s son. Wing draws from traditional Irish tales and mixes them with contemporary attitudes and beliefs. The play opens with Sean anxiously waiting for his time to go out and prove himself a hero. While talking with his mentor, an Old Druid, the Lonely Crane of Inish Kea appears, signaling the arrival of the day that Sean must leave to meet his Fate. The Druid tells Sean that he must search for and save a sister he’s never known who was kidnapped by a giant years earlier. Sean also learns that his mother, the Queen, left in search of the girl and never returned and that his twelve brothers all left on the same mission never to come home. After receiving five quid from his father, the King, and careful instructions from the Druid, Sean leaves on his quest. After giving his five quid to a poor widow so that she can bury her husband, he is joined by a mysterious man called Shaking Head, who accompanies the prince for most of the rest of his journey. Sean eventually comes to a tower where a girl is held captive and guarded by a giant. He kills the giant, but the girl won’t be free until she completes a mysterious task of which she is forbidden to speak. Meanwhile, Sean has promised the King of the Western World that he will rescue his daughter, Princess Finola, from a terrifying serpentine sea creature called Urfeist (Ur-fay-st). Trying to save her, he comes across a magical sword that can kill an opponent with one blow, and he acquires a magical fire egg from an old hag in a bog. Using these magical weapons, he is able to kill the creature and free the princess, and, at the same time, save the girl in the tower who is, in reality, his long-lost sister. The hag emerges from the bog and reveals that she is the Queen of Ireland who has been searching all these years for her beloved daughter. The reunited family returns home triumphant, and Sean marries Finola with the blessing of the Old Druid. Thus start the numerous legends of Sean Ruadh, saving Ireland from an existence void of narrative entertainment. This fantastical story is well written and full of action. Wing has successfully updated a traditional story to include modern attitudes and behaviors. Her refreshing approach includes a hero who is perhaps a bit overanxious, a king who is less than willing to send his son out to “prove his manhood,” and self-contained heroines who do not desire nor require saving. The King of Ireland’s Son is a delightful journey through a marvelous world full of mythical creatures, ghosts, swordplay, and fun. The play calls for numerous technical effects, and sets and costuming could be very complicated. The play is intended for eight actors, three women and five men, who play twenty-one characters. From: Frockt, Deborah Lynn. Seattle Childrenâs Theatre: Six Plays for Young Actors, Volume II. Smith & Kraus, 2000. ISBN 1-57525-158-2. $16.95. 295 pp. Reviewed by Allison G. Belnap
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