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.
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.
It was not unreasonable to expect that the Abbey would mark the [tenth] anniversary [of the Easter Rising] respectfully. Instead it presented Seán O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, which presented the Rising through the experiences of those who suffered most in Easter Week: the Dublin slum dwellers unwillingly thrust on to the frontline. And it suggested that, for them, the great event had brought nothing but deeper misery.
The article looks at how W.B. Yates defended the play and importance of the ability to accept failings and ambiguities as a mark of a mature nation.
The series of articles looks at many different artworks and their impact on Ireland and the wider world.
To celebrate its 110th anniversary the Abbey Theatre has produced a pictorial timeline of 110 important moments in its history from Éamon de Valera’s performance in A Christmas Hamper in 1905 to their writers salons nurturing the next generation of irish playwrights. Sean O’Casey features in two of these first as a listing in the submission logbook for Plough and the Stars and then in a stark image of the Abbey damaged terribly by fire in 1951 during a production of that same play. Remarkably the cast and crew managed to perform the play at the Peacock the next night.