by Seán O’Casey
The Wasted Land
The Silver Tassie, rejected for the Irish stage, appeared first in London in 1929 - the year after the Irish Republic issued its own silver coins produced in London’s Royal Mint. Local Gaelic football star Harry travels from a glorious peak, carrying off a silver cup (the "Silver Tassie") for his team plus the local beauty with her primed Post Office savings account, to First World War army service and then the contemporary Ireland of the 1920s.
It's all downhill for Harry as he joins the maiming and slaughter on the killing fields of France. Returning home a cripple after being given false hope in a hospital ward, he finds himself a buffeted dependent outcast, alongside a blind comrade, in a world that has moved on. Or maybe the world has moved into his Dublin tenement, eventually filled with newly minted Irish citizens.
This play is apparently in part an example of expressionism. Anyway TLT and her metallic red motorised companion were riveted by the fine, clearly spoken performances from all the cast and the eclectic but focussed nature of Seán O'Casey's writing. TLT’s take on it is that it does have spades of dialectical argument in its four acts (don’t worry, a two hour and twenty minute play!) but disguised within a characterful domestic and wartime setting with a hefty dose of dark humour.
We also found it powerfully visualised in Howard Davies’s staging, Vicki Mortimer’s design and Paul Groothuis’s equally powerful sound effects (bring the ear plugs for occasional use if you have sensitive ears!).
Anyone who has managed to read James Joyce’s Ulysses - this is meant to be an insight rather than a boast ;)! - will have some inkling of the literary, musical and political landscapes through which the characters travel in this often prescient play, emerging into the false dawn of the Roaring Twenties.
For, by the end of the year in which the play was produced in London, following poet and politician WB Yeats’s rejection of an Irish performance, we know with the benefit of hindsight all finished in a huge domino-effect financial crash.
This production of The Silver Tassie certainly receives our own highest green traffic light medal for embodying with humour and dramatic clarity a bitter, resonant turning point in history.