Another day, another play, actually another Irish play – Juno and the Paycock at The Lyttleton. Playboy of the Western World may have got the good reviews, but, for me this co-production with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin is better, mainly because there are no weak links in the acting department.
With the Irish Civil War as a backdrop, Juno and the Paycock, set in a Dublin tenement in 1922, concerns the Boyle family; the father “Captain” Jack Boyle, mother Juno, daughter, Mary and son Johnny. Jack, excellently portrayed by Ciaran Hinds would rather tell “tall” sea stories than do a job of work. The work ethic is only instilled in Juno, the stunningly effective Sinead Cusack, as Mary is on strike and Johnny, having lost an arm in the War of Independence, now lives his life in fear of being executed as a punishment for betraying a fellow IRA comrade. The play brilliantly illustrates the family’s difficulties, celebrations when luck comes calling and heartache when they realise the luck was false.
The physical timing in some of the scenes is superb, testament to the fact that the cast are already immersed in their characters having been playing them in Dublin. Janet Moran as neighbour Mrs. Maisie Madigan and Risteard Cooper playing Jack’s rogue of a drinking buddy, Joxer, lighten the whole proceedings really well and the duet with Juno and Mary is wonderfully touching. In fact under Howard Davies’ direction and Bob Crowley’s design, Sean O’Casey’s devastating portrait of wasted potential in a Dublin torn apart by the chaos of War, is perfectly brought to life. Finally, when the tragedy ultimately strikes Sinead Cusack is intensely moving.
My only reservation is that it took a little while for me to tune into the Dublin dialect, but once there I was hooked.