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UBC Publications

UBC Publications

Juno and the Paycock Jan 13, 1988

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 Frederic Wood Theatre
and the
Paycock from
Peter Rabbit
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University of British Columbia
Frederic Wood Theatre
and the
Sean O'Casey
Directed by
Stanley Weese
January 13-23
The Frederic Wood Theatre Magazine
A Seasonal Publication of University Productions Inc.
For further information regarding this
and upcoming publications call:
(604) 224-7743 Sean O'Casey
A Brief Chronology
1880 Born John Casey in Dublin, the youngest of a large family of
whom five survived childhood.
1891 Introduced to the theatre at the age of eleven by accompanying his
brother Archie to the Queen's Theatre, Dublin (mostly Boucicault
and Shakespeare).
1894 Started work at fourteen in the stockroom of a hardware store.
1907 First published work an article on Irish educational system in
The Peasant and Irish Ireland.
1911 Irish railways strike, setting for Red Roses for Me (1942).
1913 Irish Citizen Army formed by trade unions to protect their
members from police brutality.
1914 O'Casey becomes secretary of the Irish Citizens Army.
1916 The Easter Uprising: combined forces of the Citizens Army and the
Volunteers last only a couple of weeks in the face of British
superiority in numbers of men and quality of weapons.
1917-21        Guerrilla warfare in Ireland between the Irish Republican Army
(successor to the banned nationalist bodies) and the British forces:
counter terrorism by the Black and Tans - background to
The Shadow of a Gunman (1925).
1919 Publication of The Story of the Irish Citizen Army, much censored
by the military authorities.
1921 Peace Treaty signed, partitioning country into an independent Irish
Free State and a Northern Six Counties within the United
1922-23        Civil War in the south over the terms of the Treaty - background
to Juno and the Paycock.
1925 Juno and the Paycock.
1926 Visits London to receive Hawthornden Prize for Juno and the
Paycock. Settles in England for the rest of his life.
1935 Abbey Theatre production of The Silver Tassie provoked vociferous
clerical opposition.
1939 Publication of first volume of autobiography, I Knock at the Door
(banned in Eire); five further volumes completed sequence, the last
appearing in 1954.
1945 Drums Under the Windows.
1949 Inishfallen Fare Thee Well.
1952 Rose and Crown.
1955 The Bishop's Bonfire produced in Dublin by Tyrone Guthrie.
1964 Dies of a heart attack in his home in Torquay, Devon,
September 18,
O'Casey at 44 A State o' Chassis
The action of Juno and the Paycock takes place between September and
November 1922. In that year there were no fewer than four governments in
Ireland simultaneously. This dangerous chaos had been brought about by the
Government of Ireland Act (1920) by which Britain sought to achieve peace by
partitioning the island (creating the semi-autonomous state of Northern Ireland),
and by the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921) by which Britain conferred dominion
status on the rest of Ireland (the Irish Free State). Many 'diehards' in the new
Free State refused to accept what were termed "full Canadian powers," preferring
to hold out for total independence. In June 1922 the civil war fought between the
anti-Treaty Irregulars and the National or Free State forces commenced in earnest
and was to last a year.
The terrible state o' chassis which Captain Boyle from the Abbey stage
famously bemoaned would appear to have little in common with the grim
anarchy bloodying the political stage out of his (and our) sight. The Boyles and
their fellow tenement dwellers are a kind of under-class ("slum lice," a character
in The Plough and the Stars calls them) removed not only from power but even
from the ideological coherence of class itself. In 1914 a Government Housing
Commission classified half the population of Dublin under the heading of
"Indefinite and unproductive class." The resourceful working mother and daughter
supporting a feckless father and son suggest not only economic injustice and
necessity but also a degree of moral choice, the parasitism of the under-class
whose values parody the traditional values of society.
The Boyles' is a life of clutter and commotion, with the Captain as the worst
offender (or perpetuator), Juno an embattled force for order and the traditional
decencies. It is a clutter of domestic paraphernalia and also of what passes for
culture. Nationalists were dying in the cause of Irish culture, whereas O'Casey's
slum-dwellers take their songs and sayings, their ways and wisdom, from
anywhere. The most egregious magpie is Joxer Daly and it is fitting that he
cannot complete a song when called upon. This comic creation of genius is the
most vivid embodiment of a culture bereft of integrity.
Then there is the clutter of ideas concerning trade unionism, capitalism,
spiritualism, Catholicism, republicanism, women's rights. These were part of
the intellectual ferment of the time, in Dublin and elsewhere, but they are
betrayed or belied by O'Casey's characters when they aren't travestied from the
start. "A principle's a principle," says Mary early in the play, but the memorable
characters are appallingly apt practitioners of expediency, be they pure exponents
like Joxer and the Captain or mere hypocrites like Benthan and Devine. Either
way, life is a garrulous posturing, a wordy fanfare that is more enthralling than
it ought to be. It was not its colour or exoticism that captivated the early Irish
audiences but its utter realism (save for Devine's maundering love-talk) that can
still be corroborated to some extent on the housing estates and corner pubs of
northside Dublin.
O'Casey's world may seem, then, beneath political contempt (like the world
of Joyce's Dubliners); but the shadow of the gunman fell across it anyway in
those bad years. The end of the play might suggest that the Joxers and Captain
Boyles will survive political incursion, giving the lie to the kind of high-flown
political rhetoric that the characters have parroted and parodied throughout the
play. But if this answers O'Casey's anti-nationalism and essential human-
tarianism, it hardly answers the revolutionary socialism he expounded elsewhere.
Nor can we be sure of the relationship between that socialism and the quasi-
feminist solution to the Boyles' problem that almost ends the play.
Does O' Casey's Dublin slum constitute a real world alternative to the mad
Ireland of 1922, a world with its vices and incorrigibilities but human and
recognizable? (If so, the obliviousness of political causes to reality are the
dramatist's target, as well as all the fancy philosophies of life.) Or does it mimic
and stand in for an Ireland seemingly characterized in 1922 by the betrayal of
principles, by opportunism, by division and "the intestine shock and furious
close of civil butchery"? (If so, O'Casey's own creations are in their
representativeness his target.) The "sabbath of misrule" (to borrow Joyce) that
comprises O'Casey's world is ordered for us, of course, by the necessities of plot,
including elements we recognize from the fairy tale as well as from drama, even
melodrama. Several of the characters are little more than types. Joxer, who
believes it "better to be a coward than a corpse," and the Captain, the braggart
'sailor', resemble Falstaff having undergone binary fission.
Indeed, the problematic relationship between slum and state might put us in
mind of the equally problematic relationship between tavern and court in Henry
IV, 1, in which Eastcheap is at once subversive and symbolic of a kingdom,
subversive of its order, symbolic of its civil commotions. The House of Boyle
disintegrates through hubris as in some Greek tragedy, and as in Greek and
Elizabethan tragedy the fate of the family mirrors, indeed dramatically is, the fate
of the state. Life in the family is a continuous state of civil war. Alliances are
made and broken. Power is vied for. There are casualties. The answers are a
change of heart ("Sacred Heart o' Jesus, take away our hearts o' stone") and the
love of mothers, but these are merely prayers or fragile resolutions. Chassis is
triumphant in November 1922 and all the principles and causes capable of ending
it "is Null and Void."
John Wilson Foster
John Wilson Foster is Professor of English at the University of British
Columbia and author of Forces and Themes in Ulster Fiction (1974) and
Fictions of the Irish Literary Revival (1987). Juno and the Paycock
By Sean O'Casey
Directed By Stanley Weese
Costume Design By
Mara Gottler
Set Design By
Robert Gardiner
Lighting Design By
Robert Hamilton
Captain Boyle Timothy Hyland
Juno Boyle Janine Payne
Mary Boyle Victoria Maxwell
Johnny Boyle Neil Ingram
Joxer Daly Dennis James Kuss
Charles Bentham John Murphy
Mrs. Madigan Laura K. Burke
Jerry Devine Jason Smith
Needle Nugent Thomas Conlin Jones
Mrs. Tancred Dyan Lynch
First Irregular Peter Golding
Second Irregular John Rule
Mobilizer Michael Shepard
Coal Vendor Nick Davis
Sewing Machine Man Jason Dedrick
First Furniture Man Harley Harris
Second Furniture Man Craig Nelson
First Neighbour Rhena Amy.otte
Second Neighbour Christine Cedarberg
Act  I - The living apartment of a two-roomed tenancy of the
Boyle Family, in a tenement house in Dublin. 1922.
Act II - The same. A few days later.
Act III - The same. Two months later.
During Act III the lights will be lowered
to denote a lapse of one hour.
There will be two intermissions of ten minutes
Juno and the Paycock is produced by special
arrangement with Samuel French (Canada) Ltd.
Technical Director Ian Pratt
Properties Sherry Milne
Costume Supervisor Chelsea Moore
Set Construction .. .Don Griffiths, John Henrickson, Robert Moser
Stage Manager Cathy Golf
Assistant Stage Managers Alan Brodie, Luke Fredeman
Properties Assistant Darryll Patterson
Costume Assistant Blanka Jurenka
Lighting Design Assistant Elana Honcharuk
Lighting Operator Jim Schiebler
Sound Design/Operator Jill Buckham
Scenic Painters Kaiirin Bright.Elana Honcharuk
Catherine King, Gary Muir
Makeup Cynthia Johnston
House Manager Heather Kent
Box Office Carol Fisher, Timothy Hyland, Linda Humphries
Business Manager Marjorie Fordham
Production Norman Young
Dialect Coach Rod Menzies
A Curtain Call for Stanley Weese
Juno and the Paycock marks Stanley Weese's farewell to the Frederic Wood
Theatre and the Department which he joined in 1965, and from which he is
now retiring as director, actor, and teacher. In tribute to his many years of
creative work on our stages, we applaud his contribution as director of Long
Day's Journey into the Night, Waiting for Godot, Look Back in Anger, The
Crucible, Endgame, The Playboy of the Western World, The Wild Duck, When
You Comin' Back Red Ryder?, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Three by Beckett,
The Father, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, and The Glass Menagerie. His dozen or so
roles, in Frederic Wood productions, have ranged from Pantalone in A Servant of
Two Masters, to Ferapont in The Three Sisters, Polonius in Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern are Dead, and Gloucester in King Lear. And the most enduring
tribute to Stanley's teaching (apart from a Master Teacher's Certificate of Merit)
is the celebratory inscription on the T-shirts of his last Summer School acting
class: The Stanleyavsky Method. Whatever this method, it has been undertaken
with unfailing good nature, dedication to his craft, and generosity of spirit. With
a resounding "Bravo!" we offer this Curtain Call for Stanley Weese. Patterns of Betrayal in
Juno and the Paycock
Juno and the Paycock, subtitled by the author a "tragedy in three acts", was
written sixty-five years ago but what is remarkable about witnessing a good
stage performance of Juno is how fresh and vital it still appears. While using
(probably instinctively) seemingly hackneyed materials and methods, the
playwright has -transformed and re-invigorated them by the sincerity of his
experience and approach and the power of his imagination. Although in the last
analysis it is often impossible to, say what exactly makes familiar material take
on a new and enduring life in a work of art, it is pertinent to observe the strong
autobiographical elements in Juno and -- what is even more important - the
strength of personal concern which the author felt for the people caught up in the
horror of civil strife. The compassion that emerges from the dramatic action as a
whole evidently proceeded from O'Casey's deep sense of pity for the victims of
the Anglo-Irish guerilla war and subsequent Civil War (the setting for Juno) that
had devastated the country, and Dublin most particularly, for the eight years
immediately preceding the play's first appearance; moreover, he was especially
empathetic to the poverty-stricken tenement dwellers among whom he lived and
worked, many of whom were innocent victims of the sectarian violence and of
Dublin's appalling slum conditions. The original of Mrs. Boyle, as O'Casey told
me, was a woman for whom he had great admiration as well as sympathy. On
another occasion he revealed that all that happened in the play, or almost all,
happened in the house where I once lived; a tenement house still standing. Even
the young man who was "found dead on a lonely road in Finglas" lived there and
was a friend of mine - I have his photograph here with me now. A terrible thing
when romantic youth start shooting each other, all mad for a curious abstract
idea of their native land.
Juno and the Paycock, intimately bound up as it is with the private drama of
particular personalities, vividly reflects the turbulent times of the Irish Civil War
which the writer had just lived through but a few months previously. The
incident of the will that proves to be valueless because it was erroneously drafted
by a school-teacher was another known personality to the playwright, who told
me that the poverty-stricken family to whom the bequest had been made did not
receive a single penny because the will was too vaguely written. Such details
reveal that what might have been for another writer commonplace melodramatic
elements, introduced because of their tried success in the theatre, were for
O'Casey fresh and familiar material, the stuff of everyday life.
It is valid to note the work's closeness in time to the historical affairs it
portrays, not just because this gave an ephemeral boost to public interest
originally - though no doubt it did do so - but because we can better understand
with what intensity and personal commitment O'Casey wrote the play. The
nearness in time and emotional involvement could have made it just another
documentary of an exciting period in Irish history: instead, transformed by
genius, it is an enduring and universal dramatic experience. Of course it could be
said that the work realizes what would appear to be an archetypal political
process, the tragic pattern of civil war following guerilla strife against an alien
colonial power having been more recently repeated in countries like Cypress,
Aden, Vietnam, Biafra, Angola and elsewhere. Yet one doubts whether this is the
chief reason why present day audiences can still be completely caught up in the
events involving the Boyle family; instead, it is more probably because the
action is realized in human terms transcending abstract political issues and local
considerations, though both of the latter richly enforce the drama's conviction. In
other words, the national and political situation - though it is everpresent in the
narrative, so that private and public tragedies are inter-related -- is projected in a
way which emphasizes its relevance to all mankind in a similar dilemma.
In Juno the basic theme is betrayal: this operates on both the private and the
public levels in the betrayal of Mary by Bentham and the political betrayal of
Tancred by Johnny. Moreover, beyond these individual acts, there is in the play a
pervasive sense of national treachery, of a whole country split into warring
factions as the result of treason on a epic scale. Each of the three distinct strands
of the play's plot is concerned with legality and betrayal. Like the Boyle family,
Ireland itself has come into a modest inheritance whose legality is likewise soon
disputed. In the civil strife that followed the Treaty of Independence with Britain,
the contending parties argued over the legality of certain clauses in the Treaty.
Here, as in the Boyle will, a very small difference in wording makes a world of
difference, in the eyes of the Law: in the one case, the Boyles eventually have no
more claim to the inheritance than any other relative of the deceased man, while,
in the national sphere, the difference is between a united independent country and
a partitioned land divided into hostile power blocs. The "will" theme in Juno,
then, reflects, more than the importance of economic factors in the life of the
poorer Irish people.. It also obliquely mirrors the hollow inheritance of a newly-
independent state, betrayed by vested interests, self-deception, and legal
chicanery, all factors to be found in the protracted treaty negotiations between the
British government and the Irish representatives in 1921, the controversial terms
of this Treaty being a direct cause of the Civil War in Ireland.
Both sub-plots concerned with the Boyle children pick up the same theme. In
one we see Johnny's violation of his oath of allegiance to the Republican cause,
his betrayal of a comrade within the movement, and his subsequent punishment
by the rough justice of an irregular insurgent army. The third thread of the
narrative deals with the deception of Mary Boyle by Bentham: in subsequent
matter it is again concerned, if only peripherally, with legality and justice — and,
of course, betrayal. Here the deception is three-fold, for Mary is betrayed by her
own emotions and ideals, and by Jerry Devine ~ who pretends to a humanity that
he sadly lacks -- as well as by Charles Bentham, Indeed, with the exception of
her mother, Mary is also let down by her own family; Johnny and her father
disown her, a betrayal of family loyalty and honour.
The Civil War in Ireland (1922-23) created grave constitutional problems and
heated legal controversies (as one might expect in such a situation), characterized by tortured logic, paradox, and moral ambiguity on a grand scale. From the point
of view of the die-hard Republicans (upon whose side Tancred and Johnny Boyle
fought), the signatories to the Treaty with Britain were traitors to their country
and to republicanism by accepting the partition of Ireland and formally
recognizing the British monarchy by an oath of allegiance to the crown. The
moderate nationalists or Free Staters, who succeeded in getting the Treaty passed
by the majority of the freely elected representatives of the newly-independent
Dail Eireann (Irish Parliament), regarded the bitter opposition of the Die-Hards
to the Treaty as a betrayal of their hard-won political compromise; and, once the
Treaty had been accepted by the Dail, the Free State Government saw the
violence and intimidation of the anti-Treaty forces as treason to the state.
"Man's inhumanity to man" is the pervasive theme throughout Juno.
Captain Boyle's betrayal of wife and family is symptomatic of a national
tragedy; the selfish blindness and irresponsibility of men like Boyle and Joxer
has in effect led to the moral confusion which pervades the whole of society.
Boyle has "fed the heart on fantasies" — of himself as a deep-sea sailor and a
fighter in Easter Week - and these, however amusingly realized, contribute to
his evasion of reality and responsibility. The action of the play centres on the
Boyle family, the head of which has at no time in his life undertaken his family
duties. Even after being told of Bentham's betrayal of his daughter and the failure
of the expected legacy, as well as being made to apprehend the whole family's
denunciation of his fecklessness, the "Captain" is still capable of escaping into a
world of patriotic fantasy. The final drunken scene of the play affords the
supreme instance of the lengths to which self-absorption and fantasy can extend.
Man's inhumanity can surely go no farther. Boyle's complete self-absorption, his
unawareness of, and indifference to, the horror and anguish all around him is the
ultimate treason: it is a betrayal of life itself.
Ronald Ayling
Ronald Ayling's friendship with Sean O'Casey dates from his student days at
Leeds, and persists in his many critical studies, bibliographies and editions of
O'Casey's work. He is O'Casey's literary executor, and one of his most
distinguished scholars. Professor Ayling is a member in the English Department
at the University of Alberta.
The Signet of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin
The Play in Context
When Michael Collins and "the Free Staters" signed the treaty of 6th.
December, 1921 with the coalition government of Lloyd George, they secured
independence for the major part of Ireland, but as a special kind of Dominion,
not an Irish Republic. The six northern counties remained separate under Britain
with their own parliament in accord with the 1920 Government of Ireland Act.
De Valera, who had wanted "External Association" of an undivided,
independent Ireland described in his "Draft Treaty A" document, felt betrayed by
the negotiators and refused to accept the compromise; guerrilla violence and then
civil war ensued. The civil war setting of 1922 is the context for the events of
O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock. The play opened on 3rd. March, 1924 at the
Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and broke all previous box office records at that theatre
by being played a second week to accommodate crowds of people unable to get
in for the first week's performances. It was the most popular play in the Abbey's
twenty year history. Since then it has remained one of the favourites in the
repertoire there, and has had numerous productions elsewhere in the English-
speaking world, as well as "marked theatrical success," as Ronald Ayling has
noticed, "in Europe, especially in West and East Germany." Its first London
performance was distinguished by a West End run of 202 performances in 1925-
'26. Arthur Sinclair as
"The Paycock"
Caricature By
Hynes 1925
His most widely respected as well as his
most popular play, O'Casey's Juno and the
Paycock marks the height of his stage
realism. The reason for its success, as James
Simmons in his Sean O'Casey (1983)
explained is that "In it everything works."
The three act structure is strong and direct,
centred on the device of the will, with its
testing of all the characters it affects.
Moreover, the characters are vital and well-
differentiated, their comings and goings
perfectly consistent with the Dublin
tenement setting. Juno is tough and capable,
a breadwinner coping with an unreliable
husband. Mary, their daughter, is a working-
class girl of some refinement, a self-
improver not fully understood by her elders.
While she is eager to get on in the world,
her brother Johnny has been involved in
violent political action, which has made him
a mental as well as a physical wreck. He is
hiding in fear from those he has betrayed.
But the central relationships in the play are
those between Captain Boyle, the "Paycock"
or Peacock, and his wife Juno, a tragic
figure, on the one hand, and his crony Joxer
on the other. Joxer is one of the classic
comic creations of the Irish drama.
The energetic dialogues of Joxer's scenes per-
fecdy express all his quirks and blandishments. He is a perfect foil and "parasite"
to the braggart Captain Boyle. Such comic pairing is as old as Greek and Roman
comedy, but their scenes are shot through with an intensely vital realism which
makes them more than stock comic types.
In O'Casey, farcical situations remain funny, but they also acquire
unexpected significance; Captain Boyle's determination to rebel against Juno is
part of the domestic comedy, but it clearly and rather grandly finds its analogy in
the rebellion of Easter Week, 1916, a revolt that was also put down: ".. . there's
goin' to be issued a proclamation by me," he declares, "establishin' an
independent Republic." But with the advent of a "fella in a trench coat" (the
world of gunmen and political assassination) the condition of Ireland intrudes
with more than metaphorical force. O'Casey's tragic sense of history finds
expression along with an almost Dickensian love for the comedy of grotesque
details. His vision of life, at once comic and tragic, has a comprehensiveness and
balance in this play, as in The Plough and the Stars, that are warm, humane, and
very appealing to audiences.
The Boyle family in their slum tenement project more surely and accurately
than any other stage characters of the period, enact the feelings, the aspirations,
and the very real fears of ordinary Irish people in the civil war period. One of the
play's most telling exchanges occurs when the crippled Johnny protests, "...
haven't I done enough for Ireland?" but meets only the implacable response,
"Boyle, no man can do enough for Ireland!" This is the true tone of fanaticism
with a steel trap mentality. When Juno reminds Needle Nugent, ". . . it's nearly
time we had a little less respect for the dead, and a little more regard for the
livin'" she is voicing the sentiments of a majority of the Irish people who, at the
time, supported the new government of the Irish Free State, despite its
compromise with Lloyd George. Her simple prayer which asks the Sacred Heart
to ". . . take away our hearts o' stone, and give us hearts o' flesh!" is no
definitive statement about Irish politics, but a sudden moment of humanity
following Juno's recognition that she should have felt more deeply the death of
Mrs. Tancred's boy, even though he was one of the Diehards (militants who
responded with armed violence to the 1921 treaty between Britain and the Free
State). But it is the Captain's justly famous curtain line that best expresses the
sense of powerless, befuddled incomprehension which most of us feel in the face
of the arrogant violence of our century: "I'm telling you . . . Joxer . . . th' whole
worl's . . . ina terr . . . state o' . . . chassis!"
Sean O'Casey died aged eighty-four in 1964. Since then it has become
evident that his two greatest plays, Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and
the Stars, have lost none of their power; that his earlier The Shadow of a
Gunman survives as a powerful stage vehicle suitable for many different cultures
around the world, and makes a brilliant television play; and that his later
experimental work is finding more favour now in a critical climate willing to
broaden its notions of what is "dramatic". Once dismissed as weak stuff,
resulting from the combined effects of his justifiably bitter disappointment at
W.B. Yeats's decisive rejection of The Silver Tassie and O'Casey's life of exile
in England, plays like Cock-a-Doodle Dandy (1949) now appear to be among the
most innovative and fantastic of their time. O'Casey's long life spans that most
intriguing epoch-the era of change from a largely horse-drawn "lifestyle" to one
which saw the use of atomic energy in war and peace. He was born in poverty
and became world-famous, if never rich. He never stopped celebrating life,
despite a painful eye condition which made him all but blind, and despite the
death of his son Niall from leukemia at twenty-one. Perhaps the best tribute he
received was from Samuel Beckett, whose play Waiting for Godot he had
attacked for its nihilism. The Archbishop of Dublin objected to works by Joyce
and O'Casey appearing at the Dublin International Theatre Festival in 1958.
O'Casey's The Drums of Father Ned had to be withdrawn, whereupon Beckett
retaliated by withdrawing his own works from the Festival, causing it to
collapse altogether. A   ,      _   , .
Andrew Parkin
Andrew Parkin is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at UBC.
He has written extensively on Irish Literature and is the Editor of The Canadian
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