By John O'Riordan
An intensive consultant and research of playwright Sean O'Casey's works - performs and Playlets- through John O'Riordan. Touches on 23 of his O'Casey's works.
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Extra info for A Guide to O’Casey’s Plays: From the Plough to the Stars
O'Casey's Johnny Boyle, caught up in the most brutal stage of the Irish struggle, is shot by former comrades masquerading as dauntless revolutionaries, while Ibsen's Hedrig Ekdal shoots herself because she imagines her father hates her. Here, in Juno and the Paycock, the domestic atmosphere is maintained by the welding process of the disparate members of the Boyle family and tenement neighbours who co-exist in tragic circumstances. All the characters, save Juno, are romancers. The drunkards and patriots are never free from dozing and dreams, even if the dreams go by contraries: what Shaw, in John Bull's Other Island (which O'Casey reaffirms, in Drums Under the Windows, had such a profound effect on him), terms 'the torturing, heart-scalding, never satisfying dreaming'.
And still, half a century later, those laughs freeze'. The O'Casey enigma stems from specific insight into the Irish characters and their mixture of moods. In the play, 'life is seen as farce', observes Raymond Williams, 'with death cutting across it'. One moment we are laughing at an intrusive drunk and the next we are mourning a bereaved mother, keening over the death of her soldier son at the hands of revolutionaries. Yet it is this blend offarce and tragedy (which Chekhov, in his plays, effected so beguilingly) that gives O'Casey his enchanting flavour as a dramatist- and also makes him difficult to produce.
Under Lennox Robinson's direction, F. J. McCormick played Miceawl, with Maureen Delany as his wife, Eileen Crowe as Kathleen and Barry Fitzgerald as Thornton, in a glittering cast. Critics, as well as audiences, were nonplussed at first by the fantasy surrounding the satire. According to one critical source, 'it was a play to slightly puzzle a first-night audience', but, later, conceded: 'The play is hilarious throughout in the manner intended, marvellously acute in its irony'. To judge from O'Casey's own bitter comments afterwards, the play was certainly greeted with a mixed response, particularly on the first night, which the playwright himself attended; and at the end of the performance, he avowed in Inislifallen, Fare Thee Well: The audience received the little play in dead silence, in a silence that seemed to have a point of shock in its centre.