Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

'Brilliant' writing makes Sean O'Casey a classic

The staging of arguably the most iconic play in Dublin's Abbey Theatre's history provoked its own piece of drama last night as the curtain came up on Sean O'Casey's 'The Plough And The Stars' in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings.

The latest production of the O'Casey classic opened in the nearby O'Reilly Theatre at Belvedere College on Great Denmark Street.

The Abbey has been forced to close its doors for nine weeks after asbestos -- which poses a major health hazard -- was discovered in the main auditorium last January.

Renovation work costing an estimated €450,000 is being carried out, which is being funded by the Republic's Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht.

The landmark theatre will be back in business on September 15.

'The Plough And The Stars' was also being staged in 1951 when an extensive fire gutted the landmark building.

As an interim measure, it relocated to the Queen's Theatre, but it was 15 years before it reopened to the public.

The O'Casey play provoked riots when it was first staged in the Abbey in 1926, mainly because of what many people at the time believed was its less than respectful view of nationalist Ireland, particularly the 1916 leaders.

However, demonstrators failed to stop the production going ahead.

Sean O'Casey's daughter, Shivaun, said that the play's enduring popularity is all down to its "brilliant" writing.

"It's an epic piece my dad managed to write; he was just a very clever guy. It's still pertinent and resonates with people. Time does judge things and I think time will judge this fairly well.

"I saw it when it was on at the Abbey and I think it's even better this time. I think the director, Wayne Jordan, has revisited it and made it even better."

Minor modifications have been made to the O'Reilly Theatre mainly because it did not allow for the use of ropes and pulleys to move props and scenery.

"O'Casey was just an incredibly brilliant writer," said first-nighter Roddy Doyle.

"He had a great ability to make you laugh, think and ponder all at the same time."

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