| 13.8°C Dublin

Close

Premium

Seán O'Casey's activist heart still beats loud and clear in talent of today

The great Dublin playwright's legacy is to be found in the innovative talent of today, writes Katy Hayes

Close

Politically alert: Sean O'Casey talks to actress Pauline Flanagan.

Politically alert: Sean O'Casey talks to actress Pauline Flanagan.

Politically alert: Sean O'Casey talks to actress Pauline Flanagan.

There had been two major Seán O'Casey productions scheduled for 2020: The Shadow of a Gunman was due to open at the Gate next week, and Juno and the Paycock was due in the Olympia in July from Decadent Theatre Company. These productions were clearly intended as a nod to the centenary commemorations of the Civil War and would have formed part of the national debate, had virus-shaped events not blown the more contentious period of commemorations off centre stage. You can almost hear the sigh of relief - the year had not started well with the controversial proposed RIC event.

Since his debut in 1923 with The Shadow of a Gunman, O'Casey has remained enduringly popular. His plays have repeatedly rescued the Abbey from financial ruin over the decades. Poet Valentin Iremonger and playwright Roger McHugh protested against the lazy revivals of O'Casey on the Abbey stage in the 1940s, where he was trotted out as a money-spinner without the theatre investing much creative effort. The Plough and the Stars was the play running on the night of the Abbey fire in 1951.

The Easter Rising centenary commemorations of 2016 saw a Gate production of Juno and the Paycock and an Abbey production of The Plough and the Stars. In 2014, the National Theatre in London produced The Silver Tassie, the fourth O'Casey Dublin play, which revolves around World War I. It seems that O'Casey is the go-to guy for commemorative drama.