Search

The Plough and the Stars, National Theatre, review: “devastating, scathing and strikingly textured”

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:44 08 August 2016

THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS by O’Casey,                  , Writer - Sean O’Casey, Director - Jeremy Herrin, Designer - Vicki Mortimer, Lighting - James Farncombe, The National Theatre, London, 2016, Credit: Johan Persson

THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS by O’Casey, , Writer - Sean O’Casey, Director - Jeremy Herrin, Designer - Vicki Mortimer, Lighting - James Farncombe, The National Theatre, London, 2016, Credit: Johan Persson

JOHAN PERSSON

Seam O’Casey’s play about life in Irish revolution remains relevent with National Theatre’s interpretation of The Plough and Stars

When the curtains are pulled back to reveal the wrecked walls of designer Vicki Mortimer’s meticulously rendered tenement – a set that also suggests the hinterland and casualties of WW1 – O’ Casey’s foreboding is made crystal-clear: the destiny of this group of impoverished lives will be devastating.

Co-directors Howard Davies and Jeremy Herrin keep the focus on the purity of O’ Casey’s dialogue.

The play opens in November 1915 and plain-speaking Nora (Judith Roddy) is blind-sided when husband Jack (Fionn Walton) discovers his ‘little, red-lipped

girl’ has hidden a letter sent from the Citizen Army, promoting him to Captain.

While the play is predictably scathing about the British military, it is also highly critical of the rebels. Communist Covey (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), with his tedious devotion to Marxist theses, also gets a grilling.

In one finely staged scene, rebel leader Pearse’s demagogic rally cry is heard through a pub wall as warring matriarchs Bessie (Justine Mitchell) and Mrs Gogan (Josie Walker) cat fight over female respectability. It’s these layers that ensure the play’s durability.

Female roles are strikingly textured: frustrated intelligence in this heavily gendered community is a ticking time bomb.

At times, when the play hits high notes of melodrama, the writing dates but the underlying humanity redresses any imbalance.

Whether huddled together playing cards and joking, or shielding grief-stricken Nora from the sight of a hearse carrying a teenager after Nora’s baby was stillborn, O’ Casey’s message is as relevant now as ever: politics shot through with the language of evangelical redemption is dangerous. Political rhetoric saves no one but compassion may.

Rating: 4/5

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hackney Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hackney Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hackney Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hackney Stories

Arsenal performed a classic European smash and grab with a late goal from Olivier Giroud to beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0 in the frenzied Rajko Mitic Stadium.

Yesterday, 17:23

Hackney has the highest number of bike thefts in London for the second year running – and the figure is going up.

Yesterday, 17:00

Chairman Doug Harper pleased to see their efforts recognised while Leyton Orient Trust also receive nomination for “Man v Fat” initiative

Yesterday, 17:00

Tottenham Hotspur are now unbeaten in five games at the national stadium and have won matches their in three different competitions

Yesterday, 15:06

Colleagues and friends of a Stoke Newington artist have rallied to help her widower and son – by donating work for a charity auction.

Yesterday, 15:00

On-loan Dagenham & Redbridge defender Kevin Lokko wants his side to put together a full 90 minutes of hard-work as they face Wrexham this weekend.

Yesterday, 13:00

Left-back has looked better this month since Steve Davis changed formation to a 3-5-2/5-3-2

Yesterday, 12:00

Lee Valley Lions have announced the signing of defenceman Matthew Hamilton for the remainder of the 2017/18 season.



Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists