Published in September issue of Prospect Magazine
Juno and the Paycock
Bristol Old Vic, from 5th September
For sheer rage, joy, delightful characters, good plotting, musical language, jokes and political banter, there are few plays to match Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock, the tragic centre-piece of his great 1920s Dublin trilogy, set in a bustling city tenement block.
These are the difficult, edgy days of the Troubles after the civil war. The play is prophetic about the sectarian violence of the 1970s but it is as much about, too, the resilience of the working-class people involved, the battles they fought, as the reprisals to come.
There’s a reading of a will (an old Edwardian theatrical device) at the centre, but the play’s heartbeat lies in the triangular relationship between Juno, her husband Captain Jack Boyle, and Boyle’s comically diffident sidekick, Joxer Daly, the two of them finally sprawled on the kitchen floor telling each other that the whole world’s in a “terrible state of chassis.”
Juno used to be a staple of the repertoire, so it’s good to see two of our leading regional theatres, the Bristol Old Vic and the Liverpool Playhouse, working together on a play rarely seen in these days of rather unadventurous programming. Gemma Bodinetz’s production, which stars Niamh Cusack as Juno and Des McAleer as Boyle, starts in Bristol and moves in October to her home patch of the Playhouse, which she also runs with the newly refurbished Liverpool Everyman as part of her dispensation as artistic director.