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Parts are greater than the whole in DruidÕs ‘Silver Tassie’

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Date Published: {J}

Review by Judy Murphy

Druid Theatre’s much-anticipated production of Sean O’Casey’s anti-war play, The Silver Tassie, at the Town Hall Theatre is massive in scale and attention to detail. So massive, in fact, that sometimes the mechanics interfere with the action of the play and the dynamic between the characters.

That’s not a problem initially when the action opens in the living/bedroom of a Dublin tenement as young footballing hero, Harry Heegan (Aaron Monaghan) and his neighbour Teddy Foran (Liam Carney) are set to return to the Great War. They have been on leave, during which time Harry has led his soccer team to glory in winning the silver tassie of the title. The team has won the cup for the fourth time, so it becomes theirs to keep and it will feature again at the end of the play when it comes to symbolise all that Harry has lost in the war.

There’s a lot going on in that first act. The comic element comes thick and fast from Harry’s father Sylvester (Éamon Morrissey) and Simon (John Olohan), a bowler hatted duo who are reminiscent of Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot. Meanwhile Derbhle Crotty as Mrs Foran, is dying to get her husband back to the war so she can do ‘what I likes’.

Susan Monican (Clare Dunne), who is in love with Harry, is trying to convert all around her to a brand of God-fearing Christianity in a blackly comic sort of way. The young, handsome Harry, however, is besotted with Jessie (Aoife Duffin) and is in no rush to return to the Front, despite his mother’s (Ruth Hegarty) best efforts to shoo him out the door.

Here, the impressive set and lighting serve as a backdrop to the action. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of Act Two where a giant tank, complete with moving gun, dominates the stage. As a concept, it might have merit, but in real terms, you are left wondering how the actors can actually move in these cramped surroundings. And then there’s the music. Song is important in O’Casey’s work, but here genuine moments of pathos were diminished by the intrusive music and singing. The presence of a shiny silver flute amid the debris of France’s battlefields was incongruous to say the least.

The religious symbolism which runs throughout The Silver Tassie is to the fore in this act and continues in Act 3, with a crucifix dominating the ward of the hospital where a paralysed Harry is being treated. He shares the ward – inexplicably – with the Sylvester and Simon, in their nightshirts and still with their bowler hats on, who are still bantering merrily. The men’s names have been replaced by numbers, and their nurse is the once god-fearing Susan, who has become quite the dominatrix.

But, while the play picks up here, it struggles to re-engage with the audience after the flat, over-long second act an never really recovers its energy, despite the best efforts of the actors, several of whom had multiple roles.

The silver tassie re-emerges in the final act, when Harry rages at the world and his former love Jessie for all he has lost. The football club is the venue for a dance in which the blind and crippled are excluded from the world of the able-bodied and where life goes on, leaving them behind.

The staging here is superb, with choreographed releasing of balloons and clever use of lighting and shadow, as the blind Mr Foran leads Harry away from the party.

The Silver Tassie, with its mix of realism and expressionism, is a challenging play to stage and is certainly not O’Casey’s greatest work, but it does have a real pathos. Druid’s production, by including much that was unnecessary and by focusing so much on the comic element, has sacrificed much of that to present a Silver Tassie where the parts are greater than the whole.

The Silver Tassie runs in the Town Hall Theatre until September 7 with tickets costing €25/€18 concession.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Ballinasloe dig deep to book date in Croker

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Ballinasloe 2-7

An Port Mor (Armagh) 0-10

CIARAN TIERNEY AT KINGSPAN BREFFNI PARK

The men of Ballinasloe are on their way to Croke Park after overcoming a spirited second half fight-back from 14-man An Port Mor of Armagh in a keenly contested All-Ireland Junior Football semi-final at Breffni Park, Cavan, on Sunday.

Seven points up against a team who had corner forward Christopher Lennon sent off late in the first half, Ballinasloe looked to be cruising to victory at the break – but ultimately they had to dig deep to see off a defiant late challenge from the Ulster champions.

Ultimately, the damage was done in the first half. St Grellan’s produced some fine football in that opening period, two goals from central attackers Padraic Cunningham and Michael Colohan giving them the seven point cushion which made all the difference in the end.

Ballinasloe will have to analyse why they lost their way somewhat in the second period but, led by Man of the Match Darragh McCormack, Paul Whelehan, Liam Lynch, Gary Canavan, and Keith Kelly, they produced some delightful football to cause all sorts of bother in the An Port Mor defence throughout the opening period.

Backed by a huge travelling support from the East Galway town, Sean Riddell’s side enjoyed a dream start as rampant corner forwards McCormack and Whelehan combined to win a free which was comfortably slotted over the bar by Kelly after two minutes.

Even better was to come three minutes later when McCormack brilliantly rounded his man before providing a perfect pass for Whelehan, who was hauled down in the penalty area. Centre forward Padraic Cunningham calmly slotted the spot kick to the bottom left hand corner and they were 1-1 to no score up with five minutes gone.

 

McCormack and Whelehan combined well again before Canavan set up a good score for midfielder Lynch, but An Port Mor looked to be right back in the game when corner forward Shane Nugent was fouled in the Ballinasloe penalty area with 11 minutes on the clock.

Centre forward David Curran blasted the penalty over the crossbar, however, to the relief of the large Ballinasloe following. Curran provided the next score from a short-range free, following another foul on Nugent, but the Armagh men had to wait until the 30th minute before registering their first point from open play.

Ballinasloe enjoyed a purple patch at this stage, hitting 1-3 without reply, including a brace of points from Whelehan and a well-taken score on the run from Lynch, who dominated the midfield sector.

The Connacht champions produced some sublime moves in the third quarter and could have added a second goal when the superb McCormack had a shot blocked down, after his initial effort was deflected back into his path, following good work by Lynch.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Galway get job done

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Date Published: 04-Feb-2013

FRANK FARRAGHER

IT might seem something like a short term outlook, but really nothing else matters in a first match of the National League, only the result.

Galway went into last Sunday’s Division Two game with Derry in a somewhat reticent mood . . . last year hadn’t ended well, and two weeks previously in Enniscrone, Sligo inflicted another unexpected blow.

The visit of Derry represented a trip into the unknown as the northern side under new manager, Brian McIver, have also embarked on a rebuilding process – never something that tends to deliver early results.

As Galway manager, Alan Mulholland, stood on the heavy sod of Pearse Stadium at around 3.30 last Sunday, he was essentially relieved that his side had come out on the right side of a 1-15 to 0-15 scoreline.

There were no whooping supporters but a small core of fans had gathered in the tunnel to clap Galway off – wins have been scarce enough of late, so when they come, they’re to be enjoyed.

“Yes, there’s no two ways about it, a win was vital for us here today. We have a young team, this is a work in progress, but there really is no substitute for a victory. It is a confidence thing, and we needed that boost,” said Mulholland.

A fortnight previously, he had plenty to chew on as Sligo ground his side down in the FBD league to win by 0-9 to 1-4, with Galway just scoring two points from play in that tie played in Enniscrone.

“We are concerned about our fade out periods in games. In Enniscrone it happened to us over a 60 minute match where we just couldn’t sustain the effort and today we really let Derry back into it, especially in the third quarter.

“It was a strange kind of game in one way, in that both ourselves and Derry played far better football into the wind, but that sometimes happens as teams are more conscious of retaining possession when facing a breeze,” said Mulholland.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

 

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