Juno and the Paycock (National Theatre)

Originally published on my LiveJournal blog on 1st January 2012.

Sean O’Casey’s Dublin plays (Shadow of a Gunman, The Plough and the Stars, Juno and the Paycock) deal with matters of politics and poverty in the Ireland of the 1910s and 1920s. Both dark and funny, they are, along with the plays of JM Synge, part of the great theatrical literature of Ireland.

The National’s current production of ‘Juno’ is their first collaboration with the equivalent theatre in Dublin, the Abbey, and is cast from Irish players with the leads of Juno and ‘Captain’ Jack Boyle played by Sinead Cusack and Ciaran Hinds, both familiar faces from film and television as well as from the stage.

A successful production of this play should emphasis the tragedy of the Boyles while keeping the dark comedy the right side of farcical. I felt that although it was basically a strong production, the laughs were too broad and because of this, they made the Captain and Joxey far too likeable. There should be nothing nice about them – they aren’t lovable rogues, and it makes Jack’s contempt for his wife and rejection of his daughter jar with what has gone before.

Not quite as powerful or as moving as it could be, then, although the cast is strong and the set (slightly too grand for a tenement) well-done. Cusack is one of the great Junos and to see her alone would not disappoint.