Opera House Performance of The Plough and the Stars Reviewed

The Plough and the Stars Reviewed by George Fleeton

George Fleeton

ON September 18, at the Grand Opera House Belfast, I managed to catch up with the Dublin Abbey Theatre’s touring production of The Plough and the Stars (which finishes in Limerick on November 03).

This was one of Sean O’Casey’s attempts to ‘bring upon the stage the deeper thoughts and emotions of Ireland’ – the original mission statement of Yeats and Lady Gregory in 1904.

Memorable performances by Joe Hanley (Fluther) and Kelly Campbell (Nora) did not however save this quite laboured production, not from the Paycock’s ‘terrible state o’ chassis’, but from this Plough’s state of stasis.

When something deep within us draws us to the theatre, to the mystery of the live performance of a drama, we expect to appreciate the abilities and the commitments of talented people, enduring all sorts of hardships, thus enabling us to be transported, transfixed, entranced and enhanced on both the intellectual and the emotional level.

The Lyric Theatre’s recent production of The Playboy of the Western World (reviewed for Down News on September 20) also failed in this respect, although neither Synge’s play nor O’Casey’s could be accused of failing to produce theatre of measurable merit.

The reverential atmosphere that is the enemy of true creativity – today so endemic at the opera, for example – is now to be found in the theatre as well as in the opera house.

You will instinctively know when you are in the presence of great art, when you relish the journey because you find it more exhilarating than the destination, when you are drawn into the catharsis of the collective response to what you are seeing and hearing, without feeling bullied into standing for an ovation you feel is not entirely deserved.

George Fleeton writes independently on arts and culture.

He will be reporting here next month on the 61st Wexford Festival Opera (October 24 – November 04).