‘Juno and the Paycock’ by Seán O’Casey: reviewed.

This play was set in a dark moment of Irish history. British imperialism had suffered a major setback, but there was trouble among the working class of Dublin. There was no agreement about what should happen next. And in the political gap there was space for tragedy to happen.

However, the playwright took his time to build his tragedy. The characters were introduced with broad humour. The women were stronger than the men, but all were struggling to deal with the circumstances in which they found themselves. Poverty, alcoholism and violence were a constant threat, while a legacy proved to be a dream. The characters were not depicted in realistic terms: the playwright knowingly mentioned Ibsen in a cheeky reference.

There was talk, song, and melodrama in abundance, but at the heart of the play was raw internecine violence. Two futile Irish deaths caused two Irish mothers heartache, while inebriated folk failed to keep their heads amid the chaos. In some sense, this was a cruel work; there was little sympathy for human failings. Composed by 1924, it arguably lacked a proper sense of historical perspective. But for all its flaws, it made a compelling spectacle.


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