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The Theatre of Sean O'Casey

James Moran

DOI: 10.5040/9781408165942

ISBN: 9781408175354

This Critical Companion to the work of one of Ireland's most famous and controversial playwrights, Sean O'Casey, is the first major study of the playwright's work to consider his oeuvre and the archival material that has appeared during the last decade. Published ahead of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland with which O'Casey's most famous plays are associated, it provides a clear and detailed study of the work in context and performance.

James Moran shows that O'Casey not only remains the most performed playwright at Ireland's national theatre, but that the playwright was also one of the most controversial and divisive literary figures, whose work caused riots and who alienated many of his supporters. Since the start of the 'Troubles' in the North of Ireland, his work has been associated with Irish historical revisionism, and has become the subject of debate about Irish nationalism and revolutionary history.

Moran's admirably clear study considers the writer's plays, autobiographical writings and essays, paying special attention to the Dublin trilogy, The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock, and The Plough and the Stars. It considers the work produced in exile, during the war and the late plays. The Companion also features a number of interviews and essays by other leading scholars and practitioners, including Garry Hynes, Victor Merriman and Paul Murphy, which provide further critical perspectives on the work.

There is no question that this book is the best so far reviewed in the Methuen Drama Critical Companions series. James Moran has worked very hard at understanding the life and work of one of the greats of Irish theatre and does a fine job of conveying his findings in a fashion that will satisfy the general reader as much as professionals … Moran paints a fully-rounded picture of this iconoclastic character and also analyses his plays with deft skill. The author's thorough analysis is also complemented by amongst others director Garry Hynes in an informative interview and academic Paul Murphy who has written an essay on O'Casey and class. This really is a first-class book and is highly recommended both to academics and the general reader, both of whom will learn far more about Sean O'Casey than a simple biography or academic study would achieve. British Theatre Guide

One cannot but admire the reader-friendly fashion Moran goes about presenting his findings – methodically preceding his chapters, as he does, with neat summaries of the major plays before clearly replacing them in their historical, political and cultural contexts. (The researcher will also be glad to find that the study comes with a set of richly documented end-notes most of which refer to unpublished archival material, and, in addition, a detailed chronology and index.) Cercles

This confidently written book serves to bring the career and work of one of Ireland's premier league playwrights slap bang into the twenty-first century. [ . . . ] The amalgamation of conceptual ideas, such as post colonialism and class, with a professional theatre-maker's experience of directing O'Casey's work is engaging, thought-provoking, and illuminating. [ . . . ] In summary, this is a well-researched, clearly written and engaging book . . . [and] something I will be recommending to my students in the years to come. Studies in Theatre and Performance