Juno and the Paycock, National Theatre: Lyttelton, London
Friday 18 November 2011
The most obtrusive – and the most questionable – feature of Howard Davies's revival of Juno and the Paycock is the monumental design by Bob Crowley. Set in 1922 during the bitter civil war between the Free-Staters and the Die-hard Republicans, Sean O'Casey's gutting tragicomedy shows us the Boyle family disintegrating through internal and external pressures as they struggle to survive in their two-room Dublin tenement.
Here, though, they seem to be living in a ghostly palace. Intent on evoking the faded Georgian grandeur of the building, the production strands the actors in a massive visual hymn to fetching distressed chic. An antique mirror melts into nothingness down one of the walls, where even the grey wallpaper peels in a manner that would not look out of place in World of Interiors. Dwarfed by their surroundings, the cast are sometimes reduced to "forcing".
I'm ashamed to say that I squirmed with schadenfreude when this overweening set had a malfunction, necessitating a break for repairs. In a typical O'Casey moment of colliding moods, the squiffy comic merriment of the Boyles' tea-party celebration of their (illusory) windfall was just about to be pooped by a visit from their neighbour, Mrs Tancred, on her way out to bury her murdered Republican son. But then the door got stuck and not even the combined efforts of the cast could budge it. Bernadette McKenna must be the first Mrs T ever to get a round merely for making it onto the stage.
There is much here to applaud less ironically. In the role of Captain Boyle, Ciará* Hinds puffs up hilariously as a would-be man of affairs when the workshy drunken fraud thinks he's coming into money and he captures beautifully the strutting bluster of the play's cut-price Foley's Bar Falstaff. Risteárd Cooper, though, as the ferrety Joxer, could afford to signal more the two-faced heartlessness of this parasitic crony. The great Sinéad Cusack lends a wonderful note of weary scorn to Juno, though once again the misjudged scale drives her towards the over-operatic. With mawkish interlude music on pipes that put my guest in mind of Titanic, this revival too often feels like polished heritage theatre.
In rep to 26 Feb (020 7452 3000)
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Ben Affleck asked TV chiefs to hide slave-owning ancestry, new hacked Sony emails published by Wikileaks claim
- 3 Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, study suggests
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
Tidal CEO leaves Jay Z's music streaming service only a month after it launched
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens: Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill admits he was suspicious of 'Star Trek guy' JJ Abrams
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate