The Plough and the Stars
O'Reilly Theatre, Dublin Until Sep 15 7.30pm (Sat mat 2.30pm) €13-€35 01-8787222 abbeytheatre.ie
A nation is, to some extent, a carefully considered performance: we follow its narrative, stage its scenes and all play our parts. But putting the nation on stage invites potentially uproarious response, which the Abbey Theatre’s history illustrates as both crucible and critic of the country’s identity.
Sean O’Casey’s impassioned and fiercely sceptical view of the Easter Rising may have enflamed survivors of a fledgling Republic in 1926, yet its recent controversies have been over productions – such as Garry Hynes’s radical staging in 1991 – that shook off decades of sanctimony.
This revival of Wayne Jordan’s 2010 production, which begins a national and UK tour from the Abbey’s temporary base at OReilly Theatre, has become clearer and more potent in its exposed music hall artifice (shabby red curtains and antique footlights) to study the distance between rhetoric and reality. Here a woman who will not sacrifice her spirit for a greater cause is no more heroic, no less tragic and just as ill-fated as her husband who puts Ireland above everything.
There is a sly provocation in Jordan’s emphasis on theatricality, where people are made by uniforms, slogans or blather. But it also makes his appreciation keener for O’Casey’s social conscience – and for the bit players of history defined by their acts.
Can't see that? Catch this:As You Like It, Castle Yard at Kilkenny Design