Don’t Miss This Classic
Deaglán de Bréadún
Before it reaches the end of its run at the Abbey Theatre, do try and get along to see the latest production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars. It is one of a number of productions of this play I have seen over the years at the national theatre and it happens to be a particularly good one.
The outstanding performance of Joe Hanley as a bowler-hatted Fluther Good owes much to Beckett and to the actor’s own grasp of the nuances of Dublin working-class speech, mannerism and intonation. Cathy Belton as the funeral-loving Mrs Gogan is a riot and she has an alternative career in stand-up comedy if she ever gets tired of the conventional stage.
Indeed, the cast in general are excellent and it is great and indeed quite moving to see a new generation of actors getting to grips with and putting their stamp on one of the classics of the Irish stage.
In reality, though, I would say the play is only “half a classic”. The scenes leading up to the 1916 Rising are hilarious and at the same time very pointed and even profound. The play rather loses its way after that.
What a great favour the protesters did when they objected so vociferously to the drama when it first hit the stage in 1926. They made O’Casey’s name forever. Mind you, it must have been hard for them to sit and watch his portrayal of his former comrades in the Irish Citizen Army as egotistical and/or somewhat cowardly shape-throwers. You go away thinking: bloody great writer, nasty little man.