Sean O'Casey's play, written in 1926, about the tenements, streets and bars of Dublin in the days of the 1916 Rising - the story of the everyday people of the city caught up, willing or not, in the birth of the Irish nation state. The third play in O'Casey's 'Dublin Trilogy' that includes The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) and Juno and the Paycock (1924).
Original West End Production
Opened 12 May 1926, Closed 26 June 1926 at the Fortune Theatre
Transferred 28 June 1926, Closed 4 September 1926 at the New Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)
The original cast featured David Morris as 'Jack Clitheroe', Eileen Carey as 'Nora Clitheroe', J A O'Rourke as 'Peter Flynn', Sydney Morgan as 'The Young Covey', Sara Allgood as 'Bessie Burgess', Maire O'Neill as 'Mrs Gogan', Joyce Chancellor as 'Mollser Gogan' and Arthur Sinclair as 'Fluther Good'. Directed by James Bernard Fagan with sets by Simpson Robinson.
Eileen Carey was originally the understudy for the role of 'Nora', but she took over the role when the original actress fell ill prior to the play opening in London. The following year in September 1927, Eileen Carey married Sean O'Casey.
1st West End Revival
Opened 2 June 1930, Closed 5 July 1930 at the Duchess Theatre
Presented by 'The Irish Players'. The cast featured Fred O'Donovan as 'Jack Clitheroe', Kitty Curling as 'Nora Clitheroe', J A O'Rourke as 'Peter Flynn', Tony Quinn as 'The Young Covey', Sara Allgood as 'Bessie Burgess', Maire O'Neill as 'Mrs Gogan', Joyce Chancellor as 'Mollser Gogan' and Arthur Sinclair as 'Fluther Good'. Directed by Arthur Sinclair with sets by Simpson Robinson.
London Revival 1962
Opened 25 September 1962, Closed 13 October 1962 at the Mermaid Theatre
Performed twice-nightly Mondays to Saturdays. The cast featured Ronald Hines as 'Jack Clitheroe', Katherine Blake as 'Nora Clitheroe', George Coulouris as 'Peter Flynn', Donal Donnelly as 'The Young Covey', Molly Urguhart as 'Bessie Burgess', Marie Kean as 'Mrs Gogan', Kate Binchey as 'Mollser Gogan' and Arthur O'Sullivan as 'Fluther Good'. Directed by Joss Ackland with sets by David Myerscough Jones.
2nd West End Revival
Opened 27 April 1964, Closed 2 May 1964 at the Aldwych Theatre
The Royal Shakespeare Company and Peter Daubeny presented the Abbey Theatre's production for a one week run as part of the 'World Theatre Season'. The cast featured William J Foley as 'Jack Clithroe', Kathleen Barrington as 'Nora Clithroe', Eric Gorman as 'Peter Flynn', Vincent Dowling as 'The Young Covey', Eileen Crowe as 'Bessie Burgess', Aideen O'Kelly as 'Mrs Gogan', Geraldine Plunkett as 'Mollser Gogan' and Philip O'Flynn as 'Fluther Good'. Directed by Frank Dermody with sets by Tomás Mac Anna.
London Revival 1977
Previewed 15 September 1977, Opened 20 September 1977, Closed 29 March 1978 (in repertory) at the NT Olivier Theatre
The cast featured Tony Doyle as 'Jack Clitheroe', Susan Fleetwood as 'Nora Clitheroe', J G Devlin as 'Peter Flynn', Bryan Murray as 'The Young Covey', Anna Manahan as 'Bessie Burgess', Carmel McSharry as 'Mrs Gogan', Nora Connolly as 'Mollser Gogan' and Cyril Cusack as 'Fluther Good'. Directed by Bill Bryden with sets by Geoffrey Scott.
London Revival 1991
Previewed 2 May 1991, Opened 7 May 1992, Closed 22 June 1991 at the Young Vic
The cast featured Breffni McKenna as 'Jack Clitheroe', Niamh Cusack as 'Nora Clitheroe', John Rogan as 'Peter Flynn', Eanna MacLiam as 'The Young Covey', Judi Dench as 'Bessie Burgess', Dearbhla Molly as 'Mrs Gogan' and Stanley Townsend as 'Fluther Good'. Directed by Sam Mendes with designs by Johan Engels.
3rd West End Revival 1995
Previewed 2 May 1995, Opened 3 May 1995, Closed 10 June 1995 at the Garrick Theatre
The cast featured Peter Gowen as 'Jack Clitheroe', Catherine Byrne as 'Nora Clitheroe', Ronan Wilmot as 'Peter Flynn', David Wilmot as 'The Young Covey', Aideen O'Kelly as 'Bessie Burgess', Anita Reeves as 'Mrs Gogan' and Eamon Morrissey as 'Fluther Good'. Directed by Joe Dowling with sets by Frank Hallinan Flood, costumes by Leonore McDonagh and lighting by Rupert Murray.
"I bring good news. O'Casey's modern masterpiece, The Plough And The Stars, has come to the Garrick Theatre for a six-week season with an all-Irish cast in a fine Joe Dowling production... You find that moral judgment is constantly upended by O'Casey's breath-taking ability to convey human contradictions... You mark down the carpenter, Fluther Good, as a bombastic phrase-maker and the Protestant fruit-vendor Bessie Burgess as a sharp-tongued virago until you see them sacrificing life and limb to preserve first Nora's child and then her sanity... Although O'Casey debunks the bookish communism of the Young Covey, he also sees that one of the tragedies of 1916 was that nationalism overtook the need far radical social change. All this comes across in a production that sings with tragi-comic energy. Catherine Byrne's Nora is earthy, passionate, highly-sexed. Eamon Morrissev's Fluther, framing his hands round imaginary pints, Anita Reeves's Jinnie Gogan, cleaning her earwax while discoursing on the dwindling mystery of marriage, and Aideen O'Kelly's Bessie Burgess, observing events from a window like a tragic chorus, also richly exist in three dimensions." The Guardian
"Joe Dowling's fine staging of the piece sometimes errs on the side of overstatement. Does the orator, whose outpourings on the redemptive effect of bloodshed are heard during the pub scene, have to look and sound so flatly sinister, with his words emptied of any dangerous seductiveness?... Such lapses of judgment are outweighed, though, by the production's many merits. Nora and Jack, (beautifully played by Catherine Byrne and Peter Gowen) don't get much chance in the drama to show us what they had in one another before his loyalties are swayed from wife to Irish Citizens' Army. But the actors here use the brief time the characters are alone together to establish a strangely-touching sense of erotic intimacy. The knocking at the door which interrupts this has the force of a rude violation. It's a wonderful touch in the final scene, too, that the incipiently insane Nora should mistake the soldier who has brought the news of his death for her husband. Her distracted embrace gives a further excruciating twist to this man's humiliatingly false position. Having urged Jack to his death, he has deserted in an effort to save his own skin. Courage for these men, as Nora remarks, is no more than the fear of being seen as a coward by their comrades." The Independent
"Joe Dowling's handsome production goes a long way to carrying the tragedy home. And yet he could go so much further, he could move you so much more, if he would shrug off a few surface trimmings... The production is star-studded, handsomely mounted and lovingly detailed... Dowling has assembled an excellent Irish cast - but too often you feel you are watching these fine actors taking their place in O'Casey's great classic, rather than really living through this drama before you. There is too much business to let you forget you are watching a performance... What the production brings out visibly, however, is the radical difference between the women - the real centres of strength - and the men, who strut around with their big words and silly uniforms. So it frames well the heart of the tragedy: the battle between Nora and Jack, as she tries to hold him back from the fight." The Financial Times
Plough and the Stars in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 2 May 1995, opened on 3 May 1995 and closed on 10 June 1995
London Revival 2016
Previewed 20 July 2016, Opened 27 July 2016, Closed 22 October 2016 (in repertory) at the Lyttelton Theatre
The cast featured Fionn Walton as 'Jack Clitheroe', Judith Roddy as 'Nora Clitheroe', Lloyd Hutchinson as 'Peter Flynn', Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as 'The Young Covey', Justine Mitchell as 'Bessie Burgess', Josie Walker as 'Mrs Gogan', Roisin O'Neill as 'Mollser Gogan' and Stephen Kennedy as 'Fluther Good'. Directed by Howard Davies and Jeremy Herrin with designs by Vicki Mortimer, lighting by James Farncombe, music by Stephen Warbeck and sound by Paul Groothuis. Unfortunately Howard Davies was taken ill during rehearsals and therefore Jeremy Herrin took over. Howard Davies died a few months later on 26 October 2016.
When this production opened at the National's Lyttelton Theatre in July 2016, Jane Shilling in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "co-directors Jeremy Herrin and Howard Davies run boldly with what appear to be the longueurs of Sean O'Casey's text, allowing him to make at length the curiously apposite point that poverty, deprivation, the grinding misery of hopeless subjection, constitute a mixture whose long fermentation will eventually prove explosive. And from a slowish start the drama gathers in intensity to a final act of harrowing brilliance." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard wrote that "Howard Davies and Jeremy Herrin have shared directing duties, accentuating the contrast between lofty idealism and everyday desires... The play is an ensemble piece, and every character has a moment in the spotlight. But some of the droll minor ones seem caricatures, and the drama takes too long to exert its grip." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times explained that "Howard Davies directs (in collaboration with Jeremy Herrin) with his characteristic mastery of large-cast, large-scale international work... Vicki Mortimer's sets of crumbling masonry and James Farncombe's grimy, brooding lighting add to the cumulative effect of this journey from easy indulgence to a climax of grief (Irish) and shame (English)." Ann Treneman in the Times commented: "It's 100 years since the Easter Rising, surely an opportune moment, or so the thinking at the National goes, to revive this play by Seán O'Casey. Yet sometimes such things can feel formulaic, and this is the case here... What it excels in is creating atmospheric tableaux. There are terrific bar-room brawls and sepia street-theatre moments. You can taste the despair as you look on the epic revolving set, by Vicki Mortimer, of various nearly ruined rooms of the slum brick tenement." Michael Billington in the Guardian said "I found it took time to get into this revival... But once the play starts to exert its grip, it never lets go and leaves you shaken and stirred... Sean O'Casey’s play may be, as this production suggests, a tenement tragedy, but it is one that movingly affirms the importance of life over bloodstained ideals." Neil Norman in the Daily Express noted that "the company is terrific... the slow accumulation of dread, that lives already riven by poverty and struggle are about to be dismantled by tragedy, is beautifully expressed by directors Howard Davies and Jeremy Herrin. If O’Casey overdoes the irony at the climax, the play leaves a piquant resonance long after the curtain falls."
Plough and the Stars in London at the National's Lyttelton Theatre previewed from 20 July 2016, opened on 27 July 2016 and closed on 22 October 2016 (in repertory)