The Plough and the Stars at the National Theatre: Reviews

Jeremy Herrin and Howard Davies‘ production of The Plough and the Stars opened at the National Theatre on Wednesday 27th July and has received several very positive reviews.

[O]nce the play starts to exert its grip, it never lets go and leaves you shaken and stirred

Michael Billington, The Guardian

[T]he drama gathers in intensity to a final act of harrowing brilliance

If O’Casey had written nothing else, this portrait of the inhabitants of a Dublin tenement building would have put him among the great dramatists of the past two centuries

Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times

[T}his is a big, proper production of a historically cultural and significant play

Natasha Tripney, The Stage

It’s an extraordinary play and beautifully served by the production

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage

O’Casey’s potent blend of comedy and tragedy really packs a punch

Radio Times

[S]uperbly crafted tragicomedy

Neil Dowden, Londonist

The production runs until October 22nd at the Lyttelton Theatre. You can book online or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

Sean O’Casey’s Dublin Homes

Karl O’Neill writes in the Irish Times of taking a walking tour of the six houses Sean O’Casey lived at in Dublin. The tour starts at 85 Dorset Street and covers an area of just under a square kilometer of Dublin before ending at 422 North Circular Road where Sean wrote the plays of his Dublin Trilogy.

Place is an important part of any life. While Sean’s plays are very much about people, those people are the product of a very particular environment. We can’t travel back in time but we can traverse the same spaces.

The Silver Tassie in the BBC Radio 3 Minds at War Series

Playwright Elizabeth Kuti examines The Silver Tassie as part of the BBC Radio 3 Minds at War series. She looks at how the second act works to question the meaning of the war and how the final act places the meaninglessness of the war and its consequences back into the lives of the soldiers and their families.

Kuti goes on to put the play in context in Sean’s life looking at the rejection from W.B. Yates and support from G.B. Shaw as well as how the play fits in the context of other war plays including Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children, Joan Littlewood’s Oh What a Lovely War! and Sarah Kane’s Blasted.

 

The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre – Reviews

Both The Guardian and The Stage have reacted very positively to Sean Holmes‘ production of The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre. Tickets are already hard to come by for the performances at the Abbey and these reviews may well increase demand.

Reviews

[T]his production succeeds in being very moving, while asking insistent questions about social justice that often get lost in the fray.

Helen Meany, The Guardian

In a bold update for Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, director Sean Holmes makes the best work of O’Casey’s Plough in years.

Chris McCormack, The Stage

[D]irector Sean Holmes has, for want of a better expression, absolutely nailed this.

James Dunne, Pure M Magazine

Tour

The production will tour Ireland starting on 26th of April with five nights at the Cork Opera House before moving on to The National Opera House, Wexford  (Wednesday 4 – Saturday 7 May), Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick (Tuesday 10 – Saturday 14 May) and Town Hall Theatre, Galway  (Tuesday 24 – Saturday 28 May).

Abbey/Lyric Theatres’ Shadow Well Represented in the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards

Congratulations to everyone involved in the recent production of Shadow of a Gunman co produced by the Abbey and Lyric Theatres. The production has received five nominations for Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards.

The nominees are,

  • Best Director, Wayne Jordan
  • Best Actor, Mark O’Halloran (Donal Davoren)
  • Best Supporting Actress, Amy McAllister (Minnie Powell)
  • Best Costume Design, Sarah Bacon
  • Best Set Design, Sarah Bacon

It is lovely to see this production recognised. The whole field of nominees is very strong pointing to a good year in dramatic arts. It is also good to see  the Waking The Feminists movement recognised in a  Judges’ special award for Lian Bell.

Juno and the Paycock Radio Recording with an Introduction by Sean O’Casey

In a recent article on the dialects of Ireland Professor Raymond Hickey talks about how Irish and specifically Dublin accents aspirationally referenced English RP. He gives as examples James Joyce and Sean O’Casey, “listening now to recordings of James Joyce and Sean O’Casey, it’s extraordinary how English they sounded”.

Dr Liam P Ó Murchú contests this view. He gives examples of available recordings as evidence and contextualises them by pointing out that as formal recording both men probably put on their dialectical best to be understood.

The example he gives for Sean is an introduction to a 1955 radio recording of Juno and the Paycock produced by Cyril Cusak. Cusak himself plays Joxer. Juno and Captain Boyle are played by Siobhan McKenna and Seamus Kavangh. Sean’s introduction sets the scene for the play and lasts about seven minutes.

First Draft of Juno and the Paycock Arrives at The National Library of Ireland

The first draft of Juno and the Paycock has been officially received by the National Library of Ireland.  The manuscript was acquired in an auction at Sotheby’s in New York. The purchase was made possible by special allocation funding from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the NLI Trust.

The manuscript includes a handwritten draft of acts one and two of Juno and the Paycock, sections of act three, a list of characters and a synopsis of the play. The draft is in a school notebook, titled ‘Juno and the Peacock’ on the front cover.

Dr Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library of Ireland, said of the acquisition,

“We are delighted that this unique manuscript is now safely homed in the National Library. It represents a very significant addition to the NLI’s O’Casey collections, joining a substantial holding of O’Casey papers and his personal library, writing desk and other artefacts that really tell the story of this outstanding Irish playwright… This beautiful piece of Irish history and literature is as relevant for Irish actors and audiences today as it was in 1923”

Juno and the Paycock at the Gate Theatre Reviews

Mark O’Rowe’s production of Juno and the Paycock has opened at the Gate Theatre and is receiving very positive reviews for his interpretation of this classic play.

In the Irish Independent Katy Hayes describes the production as,

A Juno of rare Chekhovian power

[T]his excellent production of this classic play is a must-see

Chris McCormack writing in The Stage describes how O’Rowe portrays,

[T]he punishing binds of addiction, poverty and religious conservatism seem aimed for the present

The production runs through 16th April at the Gate Theatre.

Actor Frank Finlay 1926 – 2016

We are sad to note the death of actor Frank Finlay. He died peacefully at home surrounded by his family after a short illness.

He was a stalwart of the early years of the National Theatre under Laurence Olivier and also played in some excellent productions at the Old Vic, including playing Joxer to Colin Blakely’s Captain Boyle in Juno and the Paycock.

Finlay is best known for his television and film work including the title role in Dennis Potter’s Casanova.

As Michael Coveney writes in his obituary for The Guardian, “He was able to imply depths of feeling by doing very little.” This economy allowed Frank Finaly to be an affecting and powerful actor.