Juno and the Paycock

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 1(Jan/Feb 2012), Letters, Volume 20

Sir,—I wish to comment on Eamon O’Flaherty’s review of the Abbey Theatre’s recent production of Seán O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock (HI 19.6, Nov./Dec. 2011). While the review provides an excellent account of this latest Abbey revival, it contains a misleading historical oversight or typo. In the first two paragraphs, your reviewer places The Plough and the Stars as the first play in O’Casey’s Dublin trilogy of plays of 1922–6, and The Shadow of a Gunman as the third. In fact, Shadow was first and Plough was third. Also, the review comments that the ‘hostile reception’ that greeted the third play at the Abbey in 1926 (Plough, not Shadow) was due to ‘members of Cumann na mBan and Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, perhaps indicating a growing resistance to any non-heroic representation of the Easter Rising as well as the puritanical objections to the juxtaposition of patriotism and prostitution on the Irish stage’. The objections from some republicans to the play went deeper, in that O’Casey freely altered historical facts to suit his plot and direction. One of the more grievous alterations for republican objectors was the Act II political speech of the ‘figure in the window’, which is placed outside the pub setting of the act. The speech in the play is Patrick Pearse’s, which he delivered on 1 August 1915 at the graveside of O’Donovan Rossa in Glasnevin Cemetery. Moving the speech and Pearse from O’Donovan Rossa’s grave to a platform outside a Dublin public house was undoubtedly infuriating and, perhaps, unfair. Pearse, like many of the 1916 leaders, preached abstinence when it came to drink—as did James Connolly and many of the Irish Citizen Army’s officers. The Abbey Theatre actor and ICA captain Seán Connolly, who was killed on the roof of City Hall during the rising, was a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association.—Yours etc.,NELSON O’CEALLAIGH RITSCHELMassachusetts Maritime

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