The Druid production of Seán O’Casey’s, The Silver Tassie, arrived in the Everyman Palace in Cork as part of its UK and Irish tour and it delivered a powerful, scalding and raw version of a difficult and challenging play. Garry Hynes’ production was splendid and she gave urgent vivid life with a large cast to a play that has often been large and unwieldy. Her uncompromising direction gave life and passion to passages that had been dulled by nearly a hundred years of change in theatrical styles. The work sang with energy as this cast brought humour and often savage and ironic humour from a four act play with an amazing second act that put the Great War into a context that honoured O’Casey’s intention by setting it as he intended as a searing expression of European and Brecht expressionism.
Francis O’Connor’s design with its blood red motif and giant tank and monstrous gun reminded an audience that 30,000 Irishmen had died in that four years of war.
Aaron Monaghan was the sporting hero and army casualty, Harry Heegan was like a giant of Irish theatre, a Cúchullan if you will, who did great deeds in sport and in battle and returned to drink from the sporting cup – the silver tassie from his obdurate wheelchair. Monaghan’s was a performance to remember as was the viciousness of Liam Carney’s brutish, Teddy Foran who came home blinded.
O’Casey spared nobody in this torrent of pain and pity as women were portrayed as fixated on Army, separation, money and pensions as they hurried their men off to a catastrophic war. The officers and ruling classes were seen as figures of fun and privilege, pre-figuring O’Casey’s later Communist principles.
Éamon Morrissey as Heegan and John O’Lohan as Norton brought out the awfulness of the times with tragedy and comedy in full measure and Derbhile Crotty shone as the scheming Mrs Foran.
Druid did a magnificent job bringing this play on tour in a difficult time and the Everyman Palace deserve great praise for flying the flag of drama and great theatre in fraught times and it must be galling for them to see funders rushing to save the Cork Opera House. The Everyman need financial support and I hope that Cork City Council see that as do the people of Cork.
This year The Everyman outshone and gave fine support to theatre in the provinces, like a silver tassie they are a bit battered and scuffed by recession but they carried on and answered the call and proudly carried the flag of theatre high and bravely.