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 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.
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.
Sean Holmes’ production of The Plough and the Stars for the Abbey Theatre has been a huge success at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC. Writing for The Washington Post Nelson Pressley writes,
It’s a grubby milieu that screams poverty and hardship, yet as always the O’Casey characters are joltingly alive. The production’s triumph is the fluid, splendidly balanced ensemble, which for harmony and power rivals any other cast seen in Washington this year.
He goes on to say,
[T]his vigorous performance, which will tour elsewhere in the United States later this year, convincingly reinforces the mettle of O’Casey’s great play.
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.
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.
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.
[T]his production succeeds in being very moving, while asking insistent questions about social justice that often get lost in the fray.
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.
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.