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The Silver Tassie

Published 24 April 2014

What’s it all about?

War and the devastating effects it has upon on the minds and bodies of those thrown into its path provides the harrowing storyline of Sean O’Casey’s 1928 play. The Silver Tassie follows a group of men from an Irish tenement on their journey to the World War I trenches and back again, brutally depicting the transformations they undergo on the battlefield.

Who’s in it?

A sterling cast of actors is tasked with bringing this disturbing and dramatic play to life, but owing to the radical changes in their characters it is Ronan Raftery and Aidan Kelly whose performances prove the most memorable. Raftery heart-wrenchingly conveys Harry’s transformation from jubilant football champion to embittered and heartbroken war victim, while Kelly’s chilling performance as a violent husband is unrecognisable in the dependent blind man who emerges later in the production.

Credit must also be given to Aidan McArdle and Stephen Kennedy, who alongside Judith Roddy as the comically assertive and stubborn Susie, provide some much-needed comic relief in what is otherwise a deeply depressing tale.

What should I look out for?

The earthshattering explosions that make you question whether the National Theatre is in fact under attack and the smell of cooking steak that makes you wish you’d eaten before the start of the show.

In a nutshell?

Helped by an arsenal of stage pyrotechnics, Olivier Award winner Howard Davies evokes the First World War with striking and devastating clarity in the National Theatre’s latest breathtaking production.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@jessicaduchen The Silver Tassie is very, very strong stuff. Textures, punch and compassion of O’Casey’s drama overwhelming. Staging felt terribly real.

@fmacconghail Impressed with production of The Silver Tassie last night. Great beast of a play by Sean O’Casey. Mighty ensemble of actors.

Will I like it?

This is not an enjoyable tale, nor is it one of O’Casey’s most successful plays. But, as an experience, Howard Davies production is something that you won’t want to miss. With its blend of distressing drama and melancholic music along with Vicki Mortimer’s imposing and transformative designs, I defy you not to leave the National’s Lyttelton Theatre feeling like you’ve witnessed something truly breathtaking.


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