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Irish Revivalist playwright J. M. Synge is often regarded as a realist. Yet what happens when his work is analysed through wider performance studies and situated alongside less familiar historical contexts? By addressing this question, Hélène Lecossois offers new and valuable perspectives on Synge's plays while at the same time engaging with the complexity of his treatment of a range of performance practices – from keening at rural funerals to the performances of 'native villagers' in the entertainment section of International Exhibitions. What emerges from her study is a dramatist acutely aware of the ability of theatre in performance to counteract relentless forward-moving narratives of modernity. Through detailed, contextualized case studies, the book simultaneously makes meaningful contributions to performance studies and opens up theoretical questions of performance relating to the status of the object on stage, the body on stage and theatrical time.