All posts by Ruben Kenig

Juno and the Paycock: Reviews for the Irish Repertory Theater

Following on from the very positive reception for Shadow of a Gunman, the second production of the O’Casey season at the Irish Repertory Theater, Juno and the Paycock, has also received many glowing reviews. The production runs as part of the Irish Repertory Theater’s Sean O’Casey Season until 25th May. Click here for more information and to book tickets.

Newsweek

Juno is a masterpiece of 20th-century drama, and this production, with its great ensemble acting and expert direction, brings out its best qualities. Everything about Irish Rep’s O’Casey season has met its high expectations, and one can hardly wait for April 20, when The Plough and the Stars starts performances.

Time Out

Under the meticulously calibrated direction of Neil Pepe… this production is a gem of Irish realism, expertly transitioning from humorous banter to life-altering epiphanies.

New York Stage Review

… superb, searing revival.

The New Yorker

O’Casey presents a complex mixture of comedy, politics, song, and mourning, and the director, Neil Pepe, fashions it movingly.

Theatermania

Performed by a dynamic cast led by Ciarán O’Reilly and Maryann Plunkett, Pepe’s take feels fresh and relevant while remaining faithful to O’Casey’s nearly 100-year-old play.

Theater Time

[M]ay I direct your attention to a gem of a revival playing at the Irish Rep with some truly unforgettable performances. Sean O’ Casey’s “Juno and the Paycock” is one of the highlights of this current season.

Click here for more information and to book tickets

Shadow of a Gunman: Reviews for the Irish Repertory Theater

The critical response to Ciaran O’Reilly’s Shadow of a Gunman is overwhelmingly positive. Many papers and blogs have given the production rave reviews. The production runs as part of the Irish Repertory Theater’s Sean O’Casey Season until 25th May. Click here for more information and to book tickets.

The New York Times

[W]hen the play takes its uncorrectable skid into tragedy, there’s enough dramatic force to make you feel for the characters, even the ones you laughed at. At nearly 100 years old, O’Casey’s play still packs heat.

Wall Street Journal

The cast is miraculously right, though none of the 10 actors appear to be “performing.” Instead, they create the wholly persuasive illusion of being a group of ordinary people who are simply living their lives.

Newsweek

O’Casey is one of Ireland and the world’s great playwrights, and his talent is on full display in this taut, swiftly paced production.

Time Out: New York

[D]irector Ciarán O’Reilly presides over an embarrassment of riches from lead to bit player.

Woman Around Town

Some authors burden the stage with characters not integral to the plot. O’Casey illuminates shades of perspective. His players are rich and symbiotic.

New York Stage Review

The general excellence of Irish Rep’s production of The Shadow of a Gunman makes one look forward to seeing the next two shows in its O’Casey Cycle. Let’s mention, finally, that the playbill features several pages of historical context as well as a glossary that theatergoers likely will find to be helpful in appreciating these classic plays.

Click here for more information and to book tickets

Irish Repertory Theatre: Sean O’Casey Season

The Irish Repertory Theatre, in New York, are marking their 30th anniversary by holding a Sean O’Casey Season from 30th of January until the 25th of May. There are several events that make up the festival with the centerpiece being stagings of all three of Sean’s Dublin Trilogy in repertory.

The very first play staged by the Irish Repertory Theatre was The Plough and the Stars, directed by Charlotte Moore and she is back to revisit the play as part of the festival. The festival will open with The Shadow of a Gunman, directed by Ciarán O’Reilly and also features Juno and the Paycock directed by Neil Pepe.

In addition to the repertory season they are putting on a series of readings of all Sean O’Casey’s plays. This is a great opportunity to hear some important works that are not often performed. The works presented are,

  • The Silver Tassie (1928)
  • Within the Gates (1934)
  • The Star Turns Red (1940)
  • Purple Dust (1940/1945)
  • Red Roses for Me (1942)
  • Oak Leaves and Lavender (1946)
  • Cock-a-Doodle Dandy (1949)
  • Three One Acts Part I: “Bedtime Story” (1951), “The End of the Beginning” (1937), and “A Pound on Demand” (1939)
  • Three One Acts Part II: “Behind the Green Curtains” (1961), “Figuro in the Night” (1961), and “The Moon Shines on Kylenamoe” (1961)
  • The Bishop’s Bonfire: A Sad Play within the Tune of a Polka (1955)
  • The Drums of Father Ned (1959)

The readings are free but spaces are limited. Apply to the Irish Repertory Theatre box office for invitations.

There is also an exhibition of materials including scripts, correspondence and photographs at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, running 28th January until 23rd March. Also there will be a screening of Joseph Hardy’s 1972 film of The Shadow of a Gunman, featuring Frank Converse, Richard Dreyfuss, Jack MacGowran, and Sandra Morgan, on 21st and 22nd of February.

For further information and to book tickets contact the Irish Repertory Theatre box office online or call 212-727-2737.

The Lost O’Casey at the Abbey Theatre

ANU Productions The Lost O’Casey will be at the Abbey Theatre from 25 – 30 June 2018. This production is based on Sean O’Casey’s 1924 play Nannie’s Night Out.

The play premiered at the Abbey Theatre 94 years ago staring Sara Allgood and Michael J. Dolan.  In The Lost O’Casey ANU Productions take the play out of the theatre and lead the audience through a journey exploring the play and its multiple endings, “the ending I wanted, the ending they wanted and the compromise.”

Sean Holmes’ Acclaimed Plough and the Stars at the Lyric and Gaiety Theatres

Sean Holmes’ 2016 production of The Plough and the Stars was widely praised during its first run at The Abbey Theatre and on its US tour. The production is being revived for performances at The Lyric Theatre in London (15 March – 7 April) and Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre (24 April – 5 May).

Reviews of the first run and tour were rightly very positive, so this is a great opportunity to catch up on what you missed or to revisit this wonderful production.

There is a great gallery of  Ros Kavanagh’s photos of both the production and rehearsal process available on Flickr.

You wouldn’t want to pass up a chance to watch the Abbey Theatre perform “The Plough and the Stars,” – The Washington Post

refreshed, high-energy restaging’  ★ ★ ★  – The Guardian

Buy tickets for the Lyric in London here

Buy tickets for the Gaiety in Dublin here

Actor Doreen Keogh 1924 – 2017

We are very sad to note the death of Doreen Keogh on 31st December 2017.

Doreen Keogh 1924 - 2017
Doreen Keogh 1924 – 2017

She will probably be most widely remembered for her television roles which were many and varied including a notable stint as Coronation Street’s barmaid. She also appeared with distinction in Ballykissangel, The Royle Family and Father Ted.

She has a strong connection with the plays of Sean O’Casey too, appearing in Sam Wanamaker’s UK tour of Purple Dust, Juno and the Paycock at the Aldwych, Silver Tassie at the Almeida and Shivaun O’Casey’s production of The Shadow of a Gunman.

Doreen trained at the Abbey Theatre School before joining the company at The Gate Theatre and later moving to London sparking a long career in television and radio in addition to her stage work.

There are several lovely obituaries available in The GuardianThe Telegraph and The Irish Independent.

David Butcher’s Album of Sean’s Dublin Homes and Juno and the Paycock

Sean O’Casey was a prolific writer of letters. His correspondence was both deep and wide. Many of his letters were ably tracked down and presented in four volumes by the US poet and academic David Krause. These books are now out of print but can still be found second-hand, and are an extraordinary work of scholarship. This story is not included in there, but is also one that deserves telling.

In 1955 Sean corresponded with an amateur actor called David Butcher. David was born in Dublin in 1920, and although his family returned to England in 1922 he retained a strong connection to the country. He wrote to Sean after reading Sean’s autobiography asking him about specific places in Dublin where Sean had a connection or interest.

His story came to us via his cousin’s son Hugh Levey.

Norman David Butcher (known as David) was the only child of English parents: Charles Edward Butcher and Ethel Butcher (née Levey). His father, Charles, worked for the Audit Department of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway Company, based mostly in Norfolk. In 1913 Charles was transferred to the Auditor General’s Departments in Dublin, where [Norman] David was born on 7th January 1920.

Clearly there was much unrest in Ireland during the whole of this period, culminating in the formation of the Irish Free State and civil war. As a Civil Servant of English extraction, Charles Butcher was relocated back to the UK for his and the family’s safety. As David later wrote, “With great sadness the Butcher family left Dublin on 20th July, 1922, my mother in tears all the way over to Holyhead.”

David retained a fond affection for Ireland all of his life, and for Dublin in particular. He often visited Ireland, to meet up with other relations (Todd family) and to enjoy the people, culture and history.

David Butcher trained as an Accountant and spent much of his working life with British manufacturing company Goring-Kerr, retiring as a Director in July 1987. He lived in the Windsor area and was a passionate amateur actor, performing for over 40 years with the Windsor Theatre Guild, where he also acted as Treasurer (& Chairman?). He inherited his love of the theatre from his Aunt May Levey who was also an amateur thespian.

His love of literature and his love of Dublin, appears to have come together in his interest in Sean O’Casey’s work. He had read the writer’s autobiographies, corresponded with him, and photographed locations which were significant in O’Casey’s Dublin life and inspiration. David attended a 1995 performance of Juno and the Paycock in Dublin and was introduced to most of the cast by Tom McKenna. David, himself, performed roles in the play at least 2 or 3 times, including an amateur performance he organised in the late 1950s to raise funds for the rebuilding of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre.

David Butcher Visits Sean O’Casey’s Dublin

The following are pages from David Butcher’s album containing his letter from Sean O’Casey and his photographs and record of a trip to Dublin, in June 1956, to visit Sean’s old homes and to see the Abbey Theatre’s production of Juno and the Paycock. He tracked down the locations Sean described to him of where he had lived in Dublin. David also ventured out to explore more of the city and caused a sensation with his camera it seems.

David saw the Abbey Theatre production of Juno and the Paycock with Harry Brogan as the Captain and Eileen Crowe as Juno. The performance was staged at the Queen’s Theatre as the Abbey itself had been badly damaged by a fire (after a performance of The Plough and the Stars). He met with Tom McKenna, who played Johnny, and saw a show at the Gaiety Theatre with him before returning to England. Continue reading David Butcher’s Album of Sean’s Dublin Homes and Juno and the Paycock

Howard Davies, Director, 1945 – 2016

It is very sad indeed to note the death of Howard Davies. His recent productions of O’Casey plays were very successful indeed and as Rufus Norris, Artistic Director of the National Theatre says, “His work, particularly on the American, Russian and Irish canons, was unparalleled. His reputation among actors, writers, directors and designers alike was beyond question, and has been for so long that his name has become a byword for quality and depth.”

Howard Davies
Howard Davies

Howard won Olivier Awards three times for The White Guard, The Iceman Cometh, and All My Sons and was nominated a further three times. He took several productions from the UK to successful runs on Broadway and mounted several productions in New York. He was also integral in the founding of the Warehouse Theatre that went on to become the Donmar Warehouse.

You can find obituaries for Howard Davies at,

Shivaun O’Casey: National Theatre Platform Interview with Fergal Keane

Shivaun O’Casey was interviewed by Fergal Keane before a performance of Sean O’Casey’s Plough and the Stars at the National Theatre. The interview touches on the National’s production, the writing of the play, the reaction to the play and the effect of that on Sean and his relationship to Ireland.

The Plough and the Stars runs through October 22nd at the National Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online or by contacting the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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.