Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Silver Tassie

It is appropriate that this play,The Silver Tassie, by Sean O'Casey is playing here at the Oxford Playhouse starting today and till Sept 25. This play is to plays what the War Requiem of Britten is to Requiems. I was in tears over the way this writer has used words to express the plot in 4 acts. The first act, taking place during a leave from the front, introduces the Irish football team and its hero who won the silver tassie (the cup) three times. The second act takes place at the front and uses a reversal of Ezekiel 37 for its force of words. The play is shot through and through with how humans use the Bible. There are many allusions to the Psalms, Job, and the New Testament. Act 3 is at a Dublin hospital and Act 4, after armistice, leads into the escapism of the '20s.

First written in 1928 in English, it provoked a riot on its first German performance. It was made into an opera in the early part of this century.  There's lots on the web, e.g. here.  And I had no idea what I was going to hear to combat jet-lag.

I wish I could leave you a little from the excellent program notes by Frank McGuinness and Keith Jeffrey, but they are, like this "cruelest play of all Irish literature", so tightly interwoven, I cannot find a suitable extract. W.B. Yeats refused to stage the play and incorrectly criticized O'Casey for having no experience of the war. McGuinness criticizes Yeats for not recognizing that O'Casey was proving that "'out of the quarrel with others, we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry', just as Yeats had demanded. So he leaves us this poem of a play, hearing beneath its harsh exterior its every sorrow, seeing beneath its tough fabric its every wound, sounding its tragic music of the heart, the human heart breaking."