Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"The Plough and the Stars" and its Critics

On this day, 11th February 1926, rioting greets the Abbey Theatre performance of Sean O'Casey's "The Plough and the Stars" because of what was viewed as it's anti-Irish sentiment. Yeats tells the audience "You have disgraced yourselves again".

From the Shields Family Collection is a photograph from that production, featuring G Fallon, Arthur Shields, FJ McCormack and Shelah Richards(T13/B/246). In spite of the controversy surrounding aspects of the play, it played to full houses, and had many re-runs and revivals, as well as a film version in 1937.

In a reply to critics, printed in "The Irish Times" on 19 February 1926, O'Casey tackled some of the criticisms of the play, and went on to state.
The politicians - Free State and Republican - have the platform to express themselves, and Heavens knows they seem to take full advantage of it. The drama is my place for self-expression, and I claim the liberty in drama that they enjoy on the platform (and how they do enjoy it!), and am prepared to fight for it.
For more on productions of "The Plough and the Stars" check out the Shields Family Collection at http://archives.library.nuigalway.ie/cgi-bin/FramedList.cgi?T13 and programmes from the various Abbey Theatre productions are available to third level researchers in our Archives and Special Collections Reading Room under the Abbey Theatre Digitization Project.

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