Ireland’s world renowned Abbey Theatre is set to visit Bath to perform the classic Irish Drama, THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS. Written by one of the world’s greatest writers, Sean O’Casey, this powerful new staging will appear at the Theatre Royal from Tuesday 16th to Saturday 20th October, as one of only three UK tour dates outside Ireland following its opening in Dublin.
Set in a tenement house, against the backdrop of the Easter Rising in 1916, The Plough and the Stars is both an intimate play about the lives of ordinary people and an epic drama about ideals and the birth of the Irish nation.
As the residents of the Dublin tenement shelter from the violence that sweeps through the city’s streets, a revolution that will shape a country’s future rages around them. Amidst the tumult of political upheaval, Jack and Nora Clitheroe are ‘like two turtle doves always billing and cooing’, much to the ridicule of their bustling neighbours. But when Ireland calls, Jack must choose between love for his wife and duty to his country.
Heartbreaking, disturbing and funny, The Plough and The Stars is an iconic play to which director, Wayne Jordan, brings a fresh perspective. Sean O’Casey’s masterpiece premiered at the Abbey Theatre in 1926 amid riots and complaints from audiences who rejected its interpretation of recent history. Since then the play has become a classic of the Irish drama repertoire and this Abbey Theatre revival follows Jordan’s hugely successful 2010 production.
Fiach Mac Conghail, Director of the Abbey Theatre said, “I believe 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. I’m delighted we are touring Ireland and the UK with this important play.”
The Abbey Theatre has gathered together a sterling cast and creative team for this production. Barry Ward, who plays the role of Jack Clitheroe, has previously performed at the Theatre Royal Bath in The Lieutenant of Inishmore in 2003; Kelly Campbell appears as Nora Clitheroe; Frankie McCafferty plays the role of Peter Flynn; and Laurence Kinlan appears as The Young Covey. Gabrielle Reidy, plays the role of Bessie Burgess, she last appeared at the Theatre Royal in The House of Bernarda Alba in 1999. Deirdre Molloy appears as Mrs Gogan, Roxanna Nic Liam plays Mollser, Joe Hanley appears as Fluther Good, Mark Fitzgerald plays Lieutenant Langon, Dara Devaney appears as Captain Brennan, Gavin Fullam plays the role of Corporal Stoddart, Keith Hanna appears as Sergeant Tinley, and Kate Brennan plays Rosie Redmond. The cast is completed by Tony Flynn, who was last seen at the Theatre Royal in Animal Farm at the egg theatre during The Peter Hall Company 2007 season, Gillian McCarthy and Karl Quinn.
Wayne Jordan is an Associate Artist of the Abbey Theatre. This is his second time directing The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey. His many credits include Christ Deliver Us! (Best Director nomination Irish Times Theatre Awards 2011) at the Abbey Theatre and Everybody Loves Sylvia (Best Director nomination Irish Times Theatre Awards 2009) at the Project Arts Centre.
Sean O’Casey’s work is synonymous with the Abbey Theatre, his plays The Shadow of a Gunman (1923), Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926) all premiered at the Abbey Theatre. A co-production between the Abbey Theatre and the National Theatre of O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock completed its run in London in February 2012. Over 60,000 people saw the production between Dublin and London, including two Irish Presidents; Mary McAleese and Michael D. Higgins.
John Casey was born in Dublin in 1880; he learned Irish in 1906 and changed his name to Sean Ó Cathasaigh, later to be known as Sean O’Casey. In 1895 he performed at the Mechanics Theatre, later rebuilt as the Abbey Theatre. During the famous Lockout and the General Strike led by Jim Larkin, he was secretary to the Women and Children’s Relief Fund. In 1924 he gave up his labouring job on the Great Northern Railway of Ireland to earn his living from writing alone. His many plays received world premieres in Dublin, London, Liverpool and New York. His last play The Drums of Father Ned, which had been scheduled for the 1958 Dublin Theatre Festival, was disapproved of by the Archbishop of Dublin. This led to the playwright banning his own work from professional productions in Ireland. This ban was lifted in 1964 and the Abbey Theatre presented Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars at the World Theatre Festival in London, held to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Sean O’Casey died in 1964.
The Abbey Theatre is Ireland’s national theatre. It was founded by W.B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory. Since it first opened its doors in 1904 the theatre has played a vital and often controversial role in the literary, social and cultural life of Ireland. Over the years, the Abbey Theatre has nurtured and premiered the work of major playwrights such as J M Synge and Sean O’Casey, as well as contemporary classics from the likes of Sebastian Barry, Brian Friel and Frank McGuinness. In 1911 the Abbey Theatre first toured internationally and continues to be an ambassador for Irish arts and culture worldwide.
THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Tuesday 16th October to Saturday 20th October. Tickets are available from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk