O'Casey's 'Plough and the Stars' returns to teach new generation
IT provoked riots when it was first staged due to what some people thought was its cynical representation of nationalist heroics.
But outraged theatre-goers failed to stop the production of Sean O'Casey's classic 'The Plough and the Stars' at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1926.
And now, the removal of asbestos from the main auditorium at the Abbey, means that the national theatre's 2012 staging of the Easter 1916 drama opens at the O'Reilly Theatre in Belvedere College in north inner-city Dublin next month.
Lead actress Kelly Campbell, who plays Nora, believes the location of the alternative venue near North Great George's Street in the capital will breathe new life into the play.
"People walking around North Great George's Street to get to the theatre will be walking back into the world in which 'The Plough And The Stars' was set," said Ms Campbell.
Having seen Denise Gough play the same role in a 2010 Abbey production, the stage and TV star believes the role is a "fantastic opportunity".
"Denise was wonderful and I've also seen Cathy Belton playing this part, and Tina Kelleher. You're following in the footsteps of a lot of great actresses, like Ingrid Craigie who did it in a famous Druid production," she said.
"It's a real privilege to play this part, coming up to 2016. The journey of the character is a very important comment on where we are today and what we have come through as a nation. As a play, it still provokes a lot of questions about the nature of war and whether it's justified, if bloodshed is necessary to liberate a country."
The play is set amid the tumult of the 1916 Rising and Abbey director Fiach Mac Conghail believes "every generation should see 'The Plough and the Stars'".
"With Wayne Jordan, associate artist at the Abbey, directing, we have a new generation looking at this play with fresh eyes," said Mr Mac Conghail.
Actor Barry Ward stars opposite Ms Campbell's Nora in the role of Jack Clitheroe, Frankie McCafferty plays Peter Flynn, Laurence Kinlan is The Young Covey and Kate Brennan is Rosie Redmond.
Last night, the Abbey's head of communications, Myra McAuliffe, echoed Mr Mac Conghail's comments, adding: "We're inviting people to re-evaluate 'The Plough and The Stars'. We feel it's a major piece in the Irish drama canon and it is our responsibility to invite our audience to look at this production afresh."
The Abbey said it has also had "great support" from Sean O'Casey's daughter Siobhan and hopes she will be at the opening night on August 1.
Following its Dublin run, which ends on September 17, the production will tour Ireland and the UK.