This is a fine solid production of Seán O’Casey’s tragicomedy which raises laughter but is underscored by much pathos, set in a working class tenement during the Irish Civil War in 1922. Ger Fitzgibbon’s production is ‘set’ in Cork, but other than the Leeside accents, there is little sense that the play has been transposed fromDublin.
As was common in the time, the Boyle family’s poverty is acute with the matriarch, Juno, being the only family member working.
Her waster husband, Jack ‘Captain’ Boyle spends his time in the pub with his ne’er do well sidekick, Joxer Daly. Her son, Johnny, lost his arm in the War of Independence and is a ball of fury. Her daughter, Mary, who is on strike, witters on about principles but Juno is too hardened by the ways of the world to appreciate such high mindedness.
But despite Juno being put-upon, she is not without a heart. This is acutely evident when Mary gets into trouble and she vows to stand by her. On a couple of occasions, Juno touches her husband lightly on the shoulder and, when the family is celebrating apparent sudden riches as a result of the Captain’s inheritance, she dances with him. But for the most part, this is a family at war, a microcosm of what is happening on the larger stage.
The first act is lengthy, running to 90 minutes. The second act is much shorter and gathers pace, culminating in huge disappointment and tragedy but also, for Juno and Mary, the possibility of new beginnings.
There are some fine performances. Jack Healy as Joxer Daly almost steals the show. Speaking in a mellifluous Cork accent, Healy’s character is like a fool from a Shakespeare play, licking up to the Captain, echoing him but also stirring trouble.
Michael Sands plays the delusional Captain with much bluster. Regina Crowley as Juno reveals the full gamut of emotions. The tragic Mrs Tancred, whose son has been murdered by Free State supporters, is played with chilling effect by George Hanover.
In the year of the commemoration of the Rising, this production is a timely look at the bloody origins of the Irish state.
- Runs until February 20