Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Juno and the Paycock 26th November 2011

Who's in it? Ciaran Hinds, Sinead Cusack, Clare Dunne, Risteárd Cooper, Nick Lee, Ronan Raftery, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Janet Moran.
Where did you see? Lytelton, National Theatre

I imagine, when Juno and the Paycock was first performed in 1924 it was groundbreaking and utterly heartbreaking because for many it would have been very close to the bone. Whilst many issues are probably relevant for Irish people today; unplanned pregnancy (in a country where abortion is still illegal), poverty(though not famine-early 20th century levels) and unemployment some aspects have lost their impact.

Ciaran Hinds (Jack Boyle) and Sinead Cusack (Juno Boyle)
The big selling point of this play, at least from the National Theatre's point of view, is the joint collaboration between them and Ireland's National theatre the Abbey in Dublin. Genuine Irish doing a very Irish play and what  good quality genuine Irish actor. Ciaran Hinds as Captain Jack Boyle (due to his brief period in the merchant navy) and the paycock of the title (Imagine an Irish accent saying 'peacock') and Sinead Cusack as Juno. You expect them to be excellent, they are names and even with a very limited first half for her character Cusack more than makes up for it in the second half. The real reason to go there (unless like me you have a crush on Hinds) is for Clare Dunne as Juno and Jack's daughter, Mary.
As a play there is a theme of strong females, Juno and Mary work (though Mary's striking over a colleague's dismissal put pay to that) and support the weaker males in the family. Jack, an alcoholic, lazy man who uses his energy to go out drinking with his partner-in-crime Joxer Daly (Risteárd Cooper) and avoiding any offers of work and son Johnny, who is physically weak; one arm and dodgy hip from various activities in the Easter Rising and the Irish Civil War but also shown to be a coward, like his father when he anonymously grasses up a neighbour and finds himself haunted by the spirit of the man whose death he caused.

I don't want to spoil the play (despite its ancient-ness) but it has what you expect from an Irish melodrama; abandoment, religion, war, singing and Guinness(which had to be bought from Nigeria as it is a real struggle to get non-alcoholic Guinness). I read someone questionning why this play by Sean O'Casey is often performed and I think it is because it is one of the few plays to give all this characters a real purpose and whilst commentary on atheism or non-Christian religions may seem like a common theme it also makes this play seem timeless and could easily, much like Top Girls, have been written after the events rather during them.

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