Galway and Belfast have already had the pleasure of hosting DruidO’Casey, and now it is the turn of Dublin. For a short period, until 16 September, there are limited opportunities to see three of Sean O’Casey’s iconic works, but on six of those dates you can see all three in one day.
For now, it is only possible to see these shows on the basis of returned tickets, but it is worth moving heaven and earth to try and get your hands on a ticket.
Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the death of O’Casey, one of Ireland’s greatest playwrights, while the trilogy, The Plough and the Stars, The Shadow of a Gunman, and Juno and the Paycock, are all set a century and more ago. On days when the plays are performed back-to-back, they are staged in chronological order, and Garry Hynes has weaved her unique magic into their staging.
”DruidO’Casey is an opportunity to witness both great art, and the ideas that changed Dublin 100 years ago; ideas that are suddenly urgent and relevant again,” is how Caitríona McLaughlin and Mark O’Brien, co-directors of the Abbey Theatre, describe Galway’s Druid Theatre productions.
Most ambitious project
Tony Award winning director Garry Hynes conducts a company of 18 actors, many of them household names, and with it draws parallels between an Irish past and an international present. This is the most ambitious project yet undertaken by the company, though they are already well renowned for previous play cycles, DruidSynge, DruidMurphy and DruidShakespeare. Each of these, as with the latest work, have garnered great reviews, and not just in Ireland.
DruidO’Casey begins with The Plough and the Stars, the story of newlyweds Jack and Nora Clitheroe living in a city on the brink of the 1916 rebellion. The play features an early appearance of the comic character Fluther, before the scene moves to a pub. Nora’s husband Jack heads to take his place in the Easter Rising, with fatal consequences. Tragically, Nora flees her home, loses her baby and loses her mind.
In the tragicomedy The Shadow of a Gunman, Donal Davoren, Seumas Shields and Minnie Powell find themselves in May 1920 tangled up in the Irish War of Independence. Davoren is a poet who has come to room with Shields in a Dublin tenement slum. Many of the residents of the tenement mistake Donal for an IRA gunman on the run. Davoren does not refute this notoriety, especially as it wins him the affection of Powell, an attractive young woman.
Shields’ business partner, Mr Maguire, drops a bag off at the apartment before participating in an ambush in which he is killed. The city is put under curfew as a result of the ambush. The Black and Tans raid the tenement, and Davoren and Shields discover the bag is full of bombs. Powell takes the bag and hides it in her own room. The Black and Tans arrest Powell, who is later shot and killed trying to escape.
The saga ends with Juno and the Paycock, and the Boyle family who see their fortunes dashed amidst the upheaval of the Irish Civil War. Highly regarded and the most-often performed of O’Casey’s plays in Ireland, it was first staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1924. Yet another tragicomedy, it is set in the working-class tenements of Dublin in the early 1920s, during the Irish Civil War period. The word paycock is the Irish pronunciation of peacock, which is what Juno accuses her husband of being.
It is in Juno and the Paycock that Joxer Boyle concludes with a line that has become famous: “th’ whole worl’s in a terrible state o’chassis!”