2 minutes with… JR Thorp

With less than a week to go until this year’s festival, excitement is building, and we are keen to find out as much as possible from our wonderful festival authors. Today’s 2 minutes catch up is with Australian-born JR Thorp, a writer, lyricist and librettist who, in her debut novel Learwife, has drawn King Lear’s forgotten queen from the shadows to centre stage.

Thorp will be in conversation with Nadine O’Regan, live at Smock Alley Theatre, as part of Dublin Book Festival 2021. Full details can be found here.

King Lear’s wife is mentioned only once in the entire play…what drew you to her? 

I’ve always loved stories that look at the hidden or vanished women behind the canon, and when I first noticed the absence of Lear’s wife, the fact of her invisibility struck me powerfully. Is she irrelevant, or has she been muted? King Lear is, at its heart, a play about family, and the struggle for power within a family context – and a crucial piece on the chess board seemed to be missing. 

How did you go about creating the story behind her disappearance?

I decided that for the erasure to be so complete, it could be written as deliberate – not an oversight, but a kind of conspiracy. And from there, the rest unfolded: her own ignorance about her crime, her banishment to an abbey (which was quite common for misbehaving royal women in the medieval period), and the complete havoc she’d start to wreak when she found out her entire family had perished. From there, the entire world of the nunnery and of her early life began to take shape. 

The story hints to the strength of Lear’s wife and how she seems to have been behind much of his success and strengths. Who do you think would be a modern equivalent of her?

Calling a person a Lear’s wife-type is a tough thing, in a world where women openly seeking power is still viewed as highly suspicious. The thing about the queen is that she views herself as absolutely deserving of command in any given situation, royal, domestic or otherwise; it’s a brilliant and devastating perspective, and very few people are open about it! 

What other Dublin Book Festival event are you most excited about?

I adored Benjamín Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World, so am really looking forward to hearing him speak. What a terrifying and amazing book. 

As JR’s event is a live audience event tickets will be limited so be sure to book your ticket now!

Details for Benjamín Labatut’s conversation with Rick O’Shea can be found here.