(Peter Crawley's article appeared in the Irish Times, 5/14.)
“It is becoming painfully obvious that there is no peace to be found here,” says Donal Davoren, a poet searching for a quiet place to write.
Well, what was he expecting? His refuge is a teeming tenement building in Dublin and it is the height of the War of Independence. “I have no connection with the politics of the day,” he explains later, “and I don’t want to have any connection.” That must be Sean O’Casey’s most mordant joke. The politics of the day are likely to explode through his window, raid his home in the middle of the night, or cast him, mistakenly, as an IRA gunman on the run – a pose he assumes when it suits him.
Nothing is more absurd in O’Casey’s 1923 play than the notion that art could be indifferent to politics. Set just three years earlier, its near-vaudevillian succession of intrusions leading towards something more shattering, was first performed during a vicious Civil War. It was a dangerous weapon itself, a tragedy played for laughs.