The O’Reilly Theatre 21 Great Denmark Street Dublin 1. To 15 September.

8pm Mat Sat 3pm.
BSL Signed 6 September.
Captioned 8 September.
then tour to 3 November 2012.
Runs 3hr 5min One interval.

Tickets: 00 3531 8787 222.
Review: Michael Paye 3 August 2012.

O’Casey’s play revivified in engaging production.
The 56th Abbey Theatre production of The Plough and the Stars has begun its run in the O’Reilly Theatre. This play’s unflattering depiction of revolution and masculine vanity displeased many outspoken nationalists in its early productions, though others applauded its realistic depiction of Dublin, Easter week, 1916, when Irish rebel volunteers fought a gun battle against the British army.

Jack Clitheroe, a vain and frightened young man, takes his position as Commandant in the Irish Citizen Army, to the alarm of his wife, Nora. Her eventual madness marks the dichotomy between self-aggrandising masculine onanism and the horrors of war. As Mollser, the consumptive young girl puts it, “Is there anybody goin’, Mrs Clitheroe, with a titther o’ sense?”

In this production, the standout performers are Joe Hanley and Laurence Kinlan, who play Fluther and Young Covey respectively. Kelly Campbell and Barry Ward have chemistry as Nora and Jack in their early, intimate scenes, and later, in a striking tableau, as Jack must choose between Nora’s hand and a dying soldier’s outstretched arm, masculine vanity triumphs as Jack follows his comrades instead of his wife.

Director Wayne Jordan and his team add some wonderful touches. During the scene change for Act Two, set in a pub outside of which a man, rebel leader Pádraig Pearse, rouses a crowd of boisterous nationalists with morally questionable statements about the “cleansing” nature of war, Rosie, a prostitute, struts over the Irish flag before it is hoisted above the bar. Juxtaposing a prostitute with the tricolour outraged many nationalist audience members during the play’s inaugural performance in 1926. The addition of this set-piece by Jordan highlights a striking tradition of reciprocation between audiences and theatre production. It reminds us that this is a play steeped in the ideology of pre-independent Ireland, demonstrating O’Casey’s desire to temper fervent patriotism with the reality of war.

Unfortunately, certain elements of this production are rather formulaic. During various squabbles, characters often become pugnacious to a farcical level, which feels heavy handed, considering O’Casey’s understated realism. Indeed, when Young Covey savagely tells Rosie that he won’t take “reprimandin’ from a prostitute,” she charges at him with a chair, turning a moment of telling prejudice, which should evoke sympathy for Rosie, into farce.

Despite such minor flaws, this production does justice to an oft performed play.

Kelly Campbell: Nora Clitheroe.
Barry Ward: Jack Clitheroe.
Joe Hanley: Fluther Good.
Gabrielle Reidy: Bessie Burgess.
Deirdre Molloy: Mrs. Gogan.
Kate Brennan: Rosie Redmond.
Roxanna Nic Liam: Mollser.
Frankie McCafferty: Peter Flynn.
Laurence Kinlan: The Young Covey.
Mark Fitzgerald: Lieutenant Langon.
Dara Devaney: Captain Brennan.
Gavin Fullam: Corporal Stoddart.
Keith Hanna: Sergeant Tinley.
Tony Flynn: A Bartender.
Gillian McCarthy: The Woman from Rathmines.
Karl Quinn: The Figure in the Window.

Director: Wayne Jordan.
Set Designer: Tom Piper.
Costume Design: Joe O’Cleary.
Lighting Design: Sinéad McKenna.
Sound Design: Ben Delaney.
Composer: Conor Linehan.
Movement Director: Sue Mythen.
Design Assistant: Lily Arnold.

18-22 Sept 7.30pm Mat Thurs 2pm & Sat 2.30pm The Grand Opera House Belfast 028 9024 1919
25-29 Sept 8pm Mat Thurs & Sat at 11am An Grianán Letterkenny 074 912 0777
2-6 Oct Cambridge Arts Centre 519-740-4681 ext. 4376
9-13 Oct Tue 7pm; Wed-Sat 7:30pm Mat Thurs & Sat 2pm Birmingham Repertory Theatre 0121 236 4455
16-20 Oct Tue-Wed 7.30pm; Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Bath 01225 448844
23-27 Oct Mat Sat 2pm Siamsa Tire Tralee 00353 (0) 6671 23055
30 Oct-3 Nov 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Lime Tree Theatre Limerick 00535 (0) 61 774 772

2012-08-06 10:42:06

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