Breathing new life into Sean O’Casey’s classic

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

Director Wayne Jordan, who was given the onerous task of bringing Sean O’Casey’s epic play The Plough and the Stars by the Abbey Theatre, admits to “feeling the weight of history” in his attempts to do so.

Director Wayne Jordan, who was given the onerous task of bringing Sean O’Casey’s epic play The Plough and the Stars by the Abbey Theatre, admits to “feeling the weight of history” in his attempts to do so.

Thankfully, his direction has been acclaimed as making “a classic feel invigorating again” - and Jordan’s touring production of the classic play will officially mark the opening of the brand new, 510-seater Lime Tree Theatre in the Mary Immaculate College next week.

O’Casey’s play, first performed in the Abbey in 1926, caused riots on opening, the subtle undertones of twisting the legacy of the 1916 Rising - which is takes as a backdrop to a more simple tale about the lives of ordinary people - as well as hints at sexual mores and disenfranchisement, drove the closeted Irish audience berserk.

Jordan, in his second stint as director of the piece, feels it still holds an important resonance in contemporary Ireland.

“One of the things was that I knew I really wanted the play to focus on the sexuality of the characters in the play, and it is full of nods to that,” he explains.

“There is a sense of emasculation that comes from colonialism and yet there is the image of domestic, sexual bliss. There is a lot of talk about sex and part of the huge problem with Ireland is that we tried to develop a sexual morality in lieu of civic morality, and so people were separated from their very selves and O’Casey is really writing into that,” he adds.

The setting is simple, almost hinting at a building site, a tenement framed by the burning ashes of the GPO - while Jordan has tinkered with the pacing of O’Casey’s text - allowing the play room to breath.

“There is very little on stage, very little colour other than flashes of flags, but effectively I tried to peel it back as much as possible, so that we could just hear what they are saying,” says Jordan.

“I tried to give some of the more intimate scenes a bit more room so we could really understand the hard choices available to them.

“I think one of the achievement of the production was that it is a play about pluralism and diversity, an argument for an Ireland that is full of many different opinions.

“The play in a way is very much set in the wings of the Rising. It is more about the disenfranchisement of the underclass, more about what happened in Ireland after 1916.”

The play opens Tuesday and runs until Saturday, November 3. See www.limetreetheatre.ie.