Posts Tagged ‘The Abbey’

From archaeological excavations to Northside soul bands, it’s a varied night to kick off the weekend. Here’s a few I think are worth a look.

This Friday ,September 24, is Culture Night in Dublin. What’s that? A chance for Dubliners to switch off the telly (Ryan Tubridy, no thanks.), hit the streets and enjoy what the capital has to offer. Here’s my pick of what to do. For the most part, this is my own plan of action, so you know it’s a good one.

First of all, for the early birds: The Abbey are giving away thirty free tickets to the Plough and the Stars. I’m excited about the arrival of The Silver Tassie in Dublin soon, by far my favourite O’ Casey play, but The Plough and the Stars is perhaps ‘the’ play of what is often labelled O’ Casey’s Dublin trilogy. First come, first served Friday morning from 10.30am. You have to be there yourself at the box office, so set the alarm all you unemployed Come Here To Me readers.

Fans of O’ Casey should note that this isn’t the only chance you’ll have to take in some of his work on the night. Up on the Sean O’ Casey Bridge, at 5.30, 6.30 and 7.30, pieces from Shadow Of A Gunman and The Plough and the Stars will be performed. At the same times, the James Joyce and Samuel Beckett bridges will come to life with similar tributes to their namesakes, though you won’t catch me at either.

That great Dublin historian, Pat Liddy, is also lending his services to the night. Merrion Square and its Writers promises to be an excellent walking tour, kicking off from the Georgian House Museum, 29 Fitzwilliam Street Lower. Bring an umbrella, you never know.

Smithfield has plenty on offer on the night. The Jameson Distillery for example are offering free guided tours of the Distillery, which includes a free drink(!!!!!). First come first served over there. I imagine many will come, and many will be served. A fine start to the night perhaps. Space 54 and the Light House Cinema are both involved too on the night. The Complex play host to DIG, an exhibition of drawings and photographs from the Smithfield archaeological excavations.

In several cases the drawings record what was found under the actual gallery where the exhibition is displayed.

DIG opens tomorrow night, with Dr Ruth Johnson, Dublin City Archaeologist on hand to do the honours, but on Friday it remains open until 10pm, with the night that is in it.

A short walk away, at St. Mary’s Abbey, an exhibition titled ‘Vintage Irish Bookcovers’ is taking place from 6 to 9 pm. I’ve been known to lose lunch time to Niall McCormack’s Vintage Irish Bookcovers Blog, where everyone from Peadar O’ Donnell to Pádraic Ó Conaire features.

Free tours of Christ Church are on offer on the night, a must do for anyone who has been putting it off or writing it off as ‘too touristy’. Right next to it, by the site where Handel’s Messiah was first performed, The Contemporary Music Centre will host a night of music, “reflecting the very latest trends in contemporary music and sound art”. Handel’d love it.

In the belly of the beast, or Friday night Temple Bar, there are some more hidden gems. The Quakers Meeting House, where “Quakers have met in silence in Temple Bar for over 300 years”, opens its doors to the public and a one hour play titled ‘On Human Folly’ will be performed at 8pm. Filmbase are running a night of free activities for people like me who have no clue whatsoever how to edit or film. Exchange Dublin, The Gutter Bookshop and others down in the sometimes overlooked ‘Old City’ part of Temple Bar are also participating.

By this stage, you’re exhausted. You’ve knocked out one or two of the events above and you want to relax. Well, in Meeting House Square will find Dublin classic The Commitments being screened at 10.15pm. A nice way to bring it all to an end, even if we’ve all seen it a dozen times and own the VHS. One more viewing might convince me to buy the DVD.

See you on the streets.

Read Full Post »

A promotional image for the current run of The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey.

Sara Keating, for The Irish Times, recently wrote a fantastic piece on the background to some of the props in the current production of The Plough and The Stars at the Abbey. You’re only a click away if you want to read it.

One of the props dealt with was the pram belonging to Mrs. Gogan. She discussed the pram with prop maker Eimear Murphy.

The pram being used for the looting in Act Three is one of the oldest props at the Abbey. An original Victorian pram, it was used in the very first production of the play and every production since. Over 100 years old, it is in a delicate state; “one of the wheels is just taped on at this stage”, Murphy says. It was also badly damaged in the fire of 1951, so that while the frame of the pram is original, its casing isn’t. With its delicate frame and unique wooden handles it is totally authentic, and has been especially reserved over the years for The Plough and the Stars

The fire? Well, on July 18 1951 a fire ripped the home of the Abbey apart.The great history of the Dublin Fire Brigade compiled by Tom Geraghty and Trevor Whitehead noted that in was the busiest night of the year for the Brigade, with nine crews fighting the blaze.

What had been the former Mechanic’s Institute and City Morgue was just a gaunt dangerous skeleton festooned with The Plough and the Stars posters, and the ghost of Yeats was left to haunt an eerie smoke-filled chamber.

Flann O’ Brien (Or eh…Myles na gCopaleen) dealt with the fire in his excellent Cruiskeen Lawn column on July 25, 1951. Writing about plans to stage some major plays in the Peacock, he quipped that.

At the moment the company purports to be playing The Plough and the Stars in the Peacock. Why not Juno in the Peacock?

Or why not Autumn Fire?

No, I’m probably wrong- The Plough is probably the right play. After all, it brought the house down.


The photograph below is a gem, showing Fireman Frank Brennan salvaging the above mentioned pram from the ruins of the Abbey.

Thanks are due to the Dublin Fire Brigade Museum for the use of the image. What survived of the pram can be seen on stage in the current run of the O’ Casey play.

Read Full Post »

“It appears certain that Nationalism has gained a great deal and lost a little by its union with Labour in the Insurrection of Easter Week, and that Labour has lost much and achieved something by its avowal of the National aspirations of the Irish Nation”

-Sean O’ Casey.

Joe Hanley as Fluther Good, in rehearsal for The Plough and the Stars.

There is no night quite as exciting to see a play as on its first night before the general public. Lines have been practiced, outfits adjusted, props moved slightly this way or that way, feedback taken on board. The stage is set by now, and nothing is as telling as the reaction of a sold-out house to a performance.

Based on the reaction tonight, The Plough and the Stars should enjoy a fine run now it is back home where it belongs.

Undoubtedly one of the most controversial plays to emerge from The Abbey, it is no doubt the one that first comes to mind for many when discussing the iconic Theatre. The riots that emerged during its 1926 run at The Abbey are well documented. These disturbances were, among other things, reactions to the sight of a prostitute on stage, the appearance of the Irish flag in a public house and the use of the words of P.H Pearse. For some, the play was seen as dismissive of the ideals of the men of 1916, and the leading Irish progressive figure Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was among those who disrupted the first performance of the play. A great irony was the fact O’ Casey had previously wrote so highly of her husband Francis, the pacifist who was murdered in very suspicious circumstances during the Rising.

In Sheehy-Skeffington, and not in Connolly, fell the first martyr to Irish Socialism, for he linked Ireland not only with the little nations struggling for self-expression, but with the world’s Humanity struggling for a higher life.

When The Abbey later refused The Silver Tassie, in 1927, O’ Casey left it behind him. The Abbey has never been able to leave O’ Casey behind it however, and The Plough and the Stars has returned to its stage on numerous occasions. This latest performance, directed by Wayne Jordan, is one I’ve been eagerly awaiting for months.

The characters in the play are not easy to carry. I have seen this play performed in the past in a way that did not quite do justice to the weight of characters like The Covey and Fluther. They’re supposed to be passionate, and nothing if not loud. Joe Hanley could not have got Fluther better, and over a ‘post-play pint’ I heard this view shared by many. Fluther is a loveable character despite all his faults, and produces many wonderful lines in the work. Best to hear them read right. His physical manner on stage also matches the character, and he completely makes the character his own, whether pacing a room or returning from an ‘Easter week shopping raid’.


Read Full Post »

F. J McCormick in The Plough and the Stars as Captain Brennan.

The above image is taken from page 184 of the Capuchin Annual 1948.

The Plough and the Stars returns to The Abbey this summer, hopefully for a far less dramatic run than that of 1926, when the play inspired people to riot. “The Ireland that remembers with tear-dimmed eyes all that Easter Week stands for, will not, and cannot, be silent in face of such a challenge”, said Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, the feminist and social activist.

Sean O’ Casey remarked in the preface to his work on the Irish Citizen Army, The Story Of The Irish Citizen Army, that “It appears certain that Nationalism has gained a great deal and lost a little by its union with Labour in the Insurrection of Easter Week, and that Labour has lost much and achieved something by its avowal of the National aspirations of the Irish Nation.” This feeling is evident in this play, and the work is as tragic as it is funny.

The play is one that can spark debate in a way few others can. It’s run at the Abbey this summer is something I’ve been excited about for some time now. To coincide with the run, The Abbey are hosting a number of Talks and Workshops on the play.

Thursday 29 July, 6pm
Shivaun O’ Casey

Distinguished theatre director Shivaun O’ Casey discusses her father’s work.
Tickets: €3

Tuesday 7 September, 6pm
Keepers Of The Flame

Join us as we trace the political and performance history of The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre.
Tickets: €3

Saturday 4 September 10am
Talking Text

Voice Director Andrea Ainsworth leads a voice workshop using text from The Plough and the Stars
Tickets: €40 (Includes a light lunch and a ticket to the matinee showing)

Read Full Post »

Whilst very tempted to write a review of Colm McPhersons “The Seafarer” that just gave it five stars and said “go see it and you’ll understand why,” I do understand reviews don’t work like that so I‘ve bulked it up a little. But I mean it; before I even start the review, that’s exactly what I feel like saying; go see it and you‘ll understand.

Under the advice of a good friend, and having just written an article on the history of the Hellfire Club, one slow Saturday afternoon in January, six of us headed along to a matinee showing of a play said to be inspired by the tale of the Bucks on Montpellier Hill, when Beelzebub himself showed up during a late night game of cards, and upon losing, stamped his hoof on the floor and took off. (That mark, according to local superstitious types, can still be seen today.)

The Seafarer

The Seafarer, from last years run at An Grianán.

Captivating from the start, the story, the characters and the actors that portray them are so… familiar. Bleak, but uproariously funny, there’s a comedy in the dark, unfolding drama and maybe it’s comedy that only the Irish can understand. For while I found it hard to retain my laughter at times, as did most of the audience, half of our company were not from this Island and thought we were sick, or mad, or both, to be laughing at the despair portrayed on stage. McPherson even admitted this himself, saying Irish audiences would understand the play better than those in London or New York.

Set in Baldoyle, but namedropping an expanse of Dublin streets and pubs, the plot centres around the return of Sharkey (Liam Carney) to Dublin at Christmas time to the house his newly-visually-impaired brother Richard (Maelíosa Stafford) inherited from their parents.  Chaotic from the start, Richard and pal Ivan (Don Wycherly) test Sharkey’s patience to the limit as he tries to stay off the drink for a third consecutive day, as they nurse the mother of all hangovers, sneakily tucking into a bottle Gold Label for breakfast. I can’t compliment Don Wycherly’s performance enough; I spent most of the play watching him rather than what was going on on-stage as he stayed in character for the full three hours. Ivan is the epitomy of the lovable Irish scally- Disheveled, simple, nervous, good natured and an out-and-out alcoholic. I’d do him an injustice to describe him as any more than that; what he does on stage is just… madcap, hilarious and truly brilliant. 

The story unfolds as Sharkey’s past unravels, and it’s with the arrival of Nicky (Played by Phelim Drew, son of a hero of ours here at CHTM, Ronnie,) and Mr. Lockhart (Nick Dunning) that we get the real story about Sharkey, an alcoholic, a “Useless Eegit” whose life has been “nothing more than a series of fuck-ups” but who has “Potential” according to his loving brother Richard. As they start into their annual game of poker, and the ante’s get higher and higher, Mr. Lockhart reveals himself to Sharkey as the devil, come to claim his soul, having been beaten by Sharkey before, he doesn’t intend to get beaten again. 

The play takes a sidelong glance at the Irish relationship with alcohol, our begrudgery and our inability to share problems. And though the overriding mood of the play is bleak, dark and disparaging, the wit and feelings of hope and redemption win through, and as they say, hope springs, and you do walk out of the play with a smile on your face.

I’ll finish as I started and say go see this play, it runs until January 30th in the Abbey and tickets start at €25.

Read Full Post »

the Plough And The Stars

“The only censorship that is justified is the free censorship of popular opinion. The Ireland that remembers with tear-dimmed eyes all that Easter Week stands for, will not, and cannot, be silent in face of such a challenge.”

The above words, amazingly, come from none other than Hanna Sheehy Skeffington. A feminist, suffragete and left-wing nationalist. The subject of her comments is Sean O’ Caseys play, The Plough And The Stars. When we think of the riots the play kicked off, often its easy to imagine a ‘mob’ of religious and conservative nationalists. Sheehy-Skeffingtons opposition shows things were a little more complex.

If anyone has read O’ Caseys book on his time in the Citizen Army, The Story Of The Irish Citizen Army, they’ll know he never held back with his criticism of what he seen as the failures of the movement (Normally, of course, with biting satire and wit)

Sean O’ Casey famously put a motion forward within the movement calling on the Countess Markievicz to “sever her connection” with the nationalist movement if she was to remain active in the labour movement, which fell. After this, O’ Casey resigned his position was Honorary General Secretary.

The motion read:

“Seeing that Madame Markievicz was, through Cumann na mBan, attached to the Volunteers, and on intimate terms with many of the Volunteer leaders, and as the Volunteers’ Association was, in its methods and aims, inimical to the first interests of Labour, it could not be expected that Madame could retain the confidence of the Council; and that she be now asked to sever her connection with either the Volunteers or the Irish Citizen Army”

While many of you have likely seen the play before, its return to the Abbey is most welcome and this promises to be a fantastic production.

For me, the prize moment is always Jack singing Nora to his wife. Nobody has ever come near to the late Ronnie Drews fantastic rendition.

Look here, comrade, there’s no such thing as an Irishman, or an Englishman, or a German or a Turk; we’re all only human bein’s. Scientifically speakin’, it’s all a question of the accidental gatherin’ together of mollycewels an’ atoms

I’ll see you there!

The Plough And The Stars Opens At The Abbey On July 27th,2010
Sean O’ Caseys ‘The Story of the Irish Citizen Army’ can be read free online at Libcom.org

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: