THE PLAYBOY RIOTS. The Abbey Theater first presented Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, one of the all time great plays, in 1907. On opening night Lady Gregory sent a telegram after Act Two to Yeats, who was in Scotland, saying:”Play great success”. She followed it with a telegram during Act Three: “Audience broke up in disorder at the word shift”.
The word “shift” appears in a speech by Christy Mahon declaring his love for Pegeen Mike: “It’s Pegeen I’m seeking only, and what’d I care if you brought me a drift of chosen females, standing in their shifts itself, maybe, from this place to the eastern world? (a”shift” was a “chemise.”)
“The Playboy Riots” —-plural because they continued during the run of the play—followed. Tim Robinson, who wrote the Introduction to THE ARAN ISLANDS, says: “Large numbers of police—the Royal Irish Constabulary”…—were called upon to preserve a semblance of order for the following performances, which were largely inaudible.”