The Plough And The Stars Is A Bitter Lesson In Revolution

The Plough and the Stars, Lyric Hammersmith ★★★★☆

By Matthew Holder Last edited 39 months ago

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The Plough And The Stars Is A Bitter Lesson In Revolution The Plough and the Stars, Lyric Hammersmith 4
Photo: Tristram Kenton

The complexities and horrors of revolution are given a bracing treatment in this version by Sean Holmes of Sean O’Casey’s play about the Easter Rising, with powerful performances from the women at the heart of the drama.

Nora, played brilliantly and with great clarity by Kate Stanley Brennan, is tormented by her new husband’s determination to fight with the Irish Citizen Army as the campaign for Home Rule ramps up between 1915 and 1916, driven by a series of radical speeches by Patrick Pearse. Her portrayal of shattered dreams in the ensuing violence is commanding and gives the play the intensity it deserves.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

The journey of Union-supporting Bessie Burgess shows the play’s liberal credentials in her moving transformation from drunken persecutor of her republican neighbours to Nora’s defender and final self-sacrifice. With a mobile, steel structure for the tenement block, the staging creates a strong impression of a society in freefall. This, with the use of modern-dress, the theft of consumer goods during the uprising and chug of helicopters overhead, all adds to its contemporary relevance.

It is easy to forget that the struggle for Irish independence was as much ideological as sectarian, yet O’Casey’s play reminds us again that revolutionary struggle, irrespective of motives, will always create victims in the living rooms and streets of people’s homes. This riveting version does well to make us reflect on the fate of those often ignored by the sweeping arm of history.

The Plough and the Stars, Lyric Hammersmith, Lyric Square, King Street, W6 0QL. Tickets £10-£42. Until 7 April 2018.

Last Updated 23 March 2018